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    On "Seizing the moment of Lent"

This year more than ever, I could hardly wait for Lent to start. I see the season of Lent as a great opportunity for my soul and for my life. There are many things I wish I could do better (don't get me wrong, I would love to do something spectacular but I'm actually aiming for growth in patience and kindness…). I definitively see Lent as a chance for deeper conversion. Lent is a publicly acknowledged moment of the Church therefore it becomes a global event. Since I am isolated right now in my corner of the French Alps, missing my life and friends in Northern California, I cherish the fact that a common faith allows us (and billions of other believers) to start this Lenten journey together. I greatly appreciate this "larger than myself" dimension of Lent.

It has been a long winter and I am not talking about the huge amount of snow we got, I am thinking more along the lines of continued unemployment and coping with the trials of elderly care. Besides the slow ongoing difficulties we face, we also get some sudden ones to remind us how our lives are actually hanging by a thread. And poor fools that we are, we need little - or large - jolts here and there to put everything back into perspective. Our lives can certainly be flipped upside down like a pancake in a matter of minutes. A neighbor comes home after work and gets hit by a car and ends up in the hospital. Thank God it is not too serious but both cars are totaled, even a third car innocently parked on the side got smashed, and the daily routine of a dozen people are affected in a matter of seconds. A young mother discovers she has advanced breast cancer and the lives of the whole family is changed, every member having to go through the roller coaster ride of the anxieties of a long term illness. Even closer to home, one minute a young woman is happily pregnant with her family and friends rejoicing in this wonderful news but then in a couple of hours a miscarriage drastically alters everything, one tiny baby is gone, and the young couple needs all the courage and love they can muster to move forward and go on.

Life and death, suffering and rejoicing, are forever intermingled pieces of human life and Lent helps me internalize this. To me, doing the Stations of the Cross on Fridays is the whole journey of Lent condensed in one hour. It has a very concrete part of it (walking from one station to the next, praying aloud, kneeling, singing) and it has profound meditations on suffering and death (helping me cope with the sufferings and deaths within me and around me). It is a very practical and formative moment to remind myself how to model my own life after His life and walk in His footsteps - and in the process come every day one step closer to the joy and truth of Easter. I love being able to re-live this major tipping point of history year after year. I absolutely love the theological consequences of a faith based on Christ: it shines such a coherent and bright light on everything and it brings many graces and it always ends in the glory of the resurrection - which is the biggest Good News of all times!

Left to myself I get easily distracted so I personally need the small jolt of Lent to help me focus on what truly matters. I certainly don't need the big jolts of life but I get them anyhow just like everybody else … If life is truly about love and faith and relationships (and they can all grow stronger under challenges) then I am logical and consistent in approaching the season of Lent as the chance to deepen my relationship to God and neighbor, to increase my capacity to trust in God's plans for my own life. I know that when I am able to do this, I am then able to experience the peace of Christ and spread it around me in charity.

    Love and trust and inner peace?
    An increase in the love of God and love of neighbor?
    Yes indeed, how could I do anything “ but ” seize the moment of Lent!

PS: written in 2012 in February in the French Alps.

Updated in 2023:
Little did I know that my father was going to die suddenly of a stroke a couple of months later and I would become caretaker #1 (I had been #2 for a couple of years already), and my life was going to change again, and I was going to have to stay in France for another 4 years...But I have never regretted it! On the contrary, being able to be there to help my parents in the last years of their lives was the best thing for me to do, even much better than what I realized at the time, which was "doing my duty"; it was going to enrich me in terms of relationships and love and trust, bringing inner peace and gratitude and stability, and these fruits happened because of the grace of God! Isn't it interesting? Left to my own judgment, I would have chosen the easier path to "help them a little bit, then go home" and it is only because of the life of faith and the Church, the liturgy (and regular prayers and readings and the sacraments) that, again and again, I would realize that I should stay and take care of them; little by little, it became more and more obvious that it was the right choice, the best choice. Thanks be to God! And Thanks be to the Church for giving us the liturgical seasons and all the liturgical Feast Days of the year to better mark the passage of time, the progression of life, and what kind of journey we are on...

Copyright©February2012-July2023 Michèle Szekely in the French Alps

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