For us: to live Lent is to live in atonement for less than one-ninth of the year. Lent is a time when we unite our sufferings with that of Jesus. It can make us feel down when we realise that each soul, even our own soul must feel the weight of the cross.
Padre Pio had volunteered to live in an all-year-round perpetual Lent.From the time that he was a newly ordained priest, Padre Pio offered himself as a victim soul. The wounds of Christ’s crucifixion appeared miraculously on the young Pio’s body. He later confided in a handsome young priest Fr Karol that the deep furrow in his shoulder made him suffer the most.
The simple pleasures in life and the things that we enjoy make our crosses easier to bear. The bar of chocolate during a busy day or sharing a can of beer with a friend after a stressful day. It is when we separate ourselves from ‘the comfort factor’ and our padding-with-pleasure that our cross digs into our shoulders.
Before Lent, we take a look at our lives and ask ourselves if there is something that we are really attached to; has the stream of TV soaps or the pint of beer become the glue that holds our lives together? What would we do without them? Lent is a time when we can get to know ourselves and our weaknesses.
Just as Padre Pio knew that the cross caused his shoulder intense agony, so too can we find out which part of the cross gives us the most pain. When we decide to give up the cigarette that helps us relax, we might discover that we are naturally too irritable. When we give up the Dairy Milk that puts us in good form, we might learn that the sugar rush that puts a smile on our faces, also puts pound on. It is actually a luxury in itself to be able to look at our lives of comfort and pick something that we will ‘give up’. At least we have simple delights to give up.
Last year, I gave up watching Fawlty Towers, and gave up laughing at Basil stripping down to his vest and Sybil throwing a cup of tea at him or Basil having the ‘you started it…you invaded Poland’ argument with the Germans. This year, I am giving up the glass of wine and the pint of Guinness in the pub that I enjoy when I’m out with my friends. During Lent, when I visit my friends, instead of having pinot grigio, I’ll content myself with water. It will remind me that this is Lent and that my tiny offering is only trivial in comparison to the fact that Jesus offered Himself entirely. But when I don’t have merlot to help me feel out-going, I might have the nagging doubt that other people find me dull. But then, this is drawing my cross to me, and giving me the clear indication that I’m too conscious of what other people think about me.
Then I’m abandoning the perfume and delight of coffee: it gives me a caffeine ‘kick’ and makes me feel more alert and intelligent. But there’s no evidence to suggest that drinking coffee will turn you into a Mensa member. For certain, cappuccinos do give me migraines where I feel sparks of pain behind my eyes. But it’s still a sacrifice that when meeting someone for a coffee, I’ll have mundane green tea.