I love Mardi Gras, but as the mirth fades away and the effervescence subsides, I find myself struggling each year to rouse my languid soul to the rigors of Lent. Ashes help. I love the memento mori ritual and symbolism of our Church’s liturgy. It is quite the experience to look in the mirror and behold my countenance transformed into some Gothic chiaroscuro sketching. That black grime isn’t just etched into my forehead, but into my soul. Thank you, Holy Mother Church, for the reminder. The siren song of a Mardi Gras life is seductive, but I would rather visit such Bacchanalian digs than live there permanently.
Lent is a time for mortification. Most people I know naturally cringe or recoil at the very utterance of such a terrible word, but we Catholics don’t. How could we without being walking contradictions? I mean for goodness sake we decorate our rooms with a graphic depiction of a torturous death. The crucifix is a symbolic representation of the extreme mortification unto death that Jesus willingly accepted to atone for our sins. Christian discipleship means following in the footsteps of our Lord and those footsteps lead us to the cross and upon the cross. The cross demands mortification ultimately. Fortunately, not all of us face martyrdom, but we, each of us, should do our part to share in our Lord’s burden, as Simon did, by carrying the cross for a time in our individual ways.
I am giving up the radio for Lent. This is quite a sacrifice, as my travel time from Tomball to work is somewhere in the range of forty minutes to an hour and a half each day, depending on whether I take the bus or not. In lieu of music or talk radio, I am praying a decade of the Rosary and taking some time to think about my faith life, my family, and my work. Finally, the most difficult part of a drive without the radio is the silence. I crave distraction. I think that says something very sad about my soul. Silence may be a true panacea to the noise in my life, and I am going to try my very best to embrace this cross with as much joy and perseverance as I can. My mother always used to say I should “offer it up” to God. Well, God, I’m offering it up to you.