Some time ago Paulist Press published a little book called "Celebrating Lent." It was a compilation of articles first published in the New Catholic World magazine. It consisted of various articles by individuals sharing their celebration of Lent One article, written by a Benedictine monk, Louis Schaper, was titled "Our Way of Lent" and shared the experiences of Lent in the setting of a monastic community. As Brother Louis wrote, the "character of Lent" to which St. Benedict refers in his rule is that monastic life does not necessarily mean a dark and negative approach to life. In fact, it may indicate the opposite. For the experience of Lent is the experience of the desert, and the desert can mean such different things. It can mean thirst and dryness, scorching sun, land of waste. But it can also mean silent vastness, gorgeous sunsets, indescribable flowers and unsuspected springs of water.
For the Jewish people fleeing from their oppressors, the desert meant a long and hard journey, it meant looking within, listening to one another, breaking with old ways reaching out and searching and, finally, being touched by God. .
Brother James says that one way of speaking about Lent as the experience of the desert is understanding it as a search for the experience of conversion. It might also refer to this as seeking a change in the way we see things, of a new and more intense consciousness, of trying to get out of ruts, or of looking for a new heart.
Lent, then, is a time for conversion, for "metanoia." Perhaps it was this understanding that Cardinal Sean had in mind when a couple of years ago he introduced into the Archdiocese the Lenten program called The Light is on for You." It asked every parish in the Archdiocese to offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation on the Lenten Wednesday evenings. This is a time for confessions over and beyond the usual Saturday afternoon times. I have always been impressed by someone who comes to confession at an unusual time who has been away from the sacrament for twenty five years or more. It can only be explained by the fact that the Holy Sprit is working within that soul. If Wednesday is not a good evening for you, please mark Tuesday, March 27 , the Tuesday of Holy Week when we will hold our Lenten Parish Penance service.
Fr John R. Mulvehill