I've been Catholic my whole life. Raised in a family of Catholics that did not only go to church on Sunday's but lived their faith, day in and day out. There were certainly times, most especially in my adolescence in which I severely doubted what the Church thought, even doubted the existence of God. By the grace of God and the diligence of good and holy parents, I was ushered into the teen program at my church. It saved my life, and no, I don't use that phrase lightly.
My teen years were hard on me. Like many teenage girls, I felt left out, unloved and simply not beautiful enough. Life Teen gave me a home, a community, a foundation. I credit so much of who I am and the strength of my faith to those 4 years in Life Teen. I clung to my faith in those turbulent years and in turn learned so much about the Church and it's beautiful teachings.
Leaving Life Teen and my home parish once I graduated High School was hard. It's easy to want to stay in a safe, warm, comfortable bubble that community creates. But God was calling me elsewhere, and it was evident in so many ways.
The first year of college life was brutal to me. I was heartbroken over the breakup of my first love and tempted to soothe my broken heart in so many worldly ways. And then the unexpected blow of diagnosis came. In that first semester of college I found out that I was Type 1 Diabetic. And in that moment, all I had was my faith. Truth be told, it's all I've ever had.
It was a dark winter for me that year. Again the world told me it could solve my problems, cure my heartache, give me the desires of my heart. But it didn't take long for me to realize what a lie that was. Lent was coming, and my soul was thirsty. I knew this was the time to fully come back to the Church, to fully come back to Jesus.
During that Lent, I resolved to spend an hour a week in Adoration, give more of my time to attending daily mass, and to meeting people to form a community with. It was hard- the meeting people. Isolation seemed like such an easy answer and I'm not the outgoing type. It became my sacrifice. It was a way in which to die to what made me comfortable and to join with Jesus in His suffering. But truly, as with all suffering, it was not a means without an end. It had a great end, an end that has lead me to where I am today. I met my now-husband during that time. I met Jenna. I met some of the greatest people in my life during that season.
I look back on that Lent often. On what made it so special, so monumental, so life-changing for me. I so desperately want that kind of Lent again this year. I have been asking The Lord in prayer what he wants for me to do with this upcoming Lent, and honestly I didn't know the answer until I wrote this. The answer: get uncomfortable! For me and you, that may look very different. But I invite you on the journey with me, Catholic or not. A journey in which messy, sinful people like you and me are bound to want to throw in the towel and chose the easy route. But what beauty comes from trial, what discipline comes from temptation, what goodness comes from the sacrifice!
Let's get uncomfortable and follow the Lord into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, friends. Let's die to ourselves and pick up our cross. And then let us also rise with Him on that glorious Resurrection day.
“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on 3/5/14 and continues until Easter on 4/20/14.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “the real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare men for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ…the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning men from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in them the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in their hearts.”