Friday, March 27, 2015

Now I'm Gonna Get Serious About Lent... Before... it's... Over!

Okay, so much for "experiments in purple." It's rather a bit of a penance just to look at this murky graphic.

It's taken from a tweet I posted several years ago during Lent. I must have been having a "good Lent" that year. This year... eh, not so much.

These graphics illustrate that I will go to almost any lengths to do something else rather than pray or do actual good works! Honestly, I'm too distracted. I keep saying, "I'll get to it... right after I finish this one more thing!" It's not healthy. It's a bad attitude. And I have decided I'm going to change. I intend to start right after I finish this blog post.

Still, I do want to point out the artistic scheme (pathetic, I admit) that I have attempted to realize in the above graphic by taking two simple sentences of type and running them through the filters and color alterations of PaintNet as well as adding some further details, so that in the end they look like a 1970s tie dye tee shirt gone badly wrong.

I set the words in an oval background of varying shades of purple that moves inward from a tomb-like darkness to an orange bright. Most of this came through blundering with purple-ish filters, but then I saw a sepulchre theme emerging and also the Lenten journey from death to resurrection, from darkness to day, etcetera. So I sketched in the cross to span the opening.

Josefina said, "That's good, Daddy!" Well, she wouldn't just say that about anything. She must like it. On the other hand, she's eight years old. Hmmm.

"But I'm learning something about the software, maybe," I tell myself. Community freeware like PaintNet has lots of possibilities but also limitations, and the instructions are not always clear, at least to me. So it's a process of "learn-by-doing," and discovering how different tools work by... well... using them. I suppose I could call it "media research." Or I could call it "therapy" (because this kind of activity is a stress reducer, at least until it becomes its own obsession). In any case, I suppose it's preferable to wasting time reading political and ecclesiastical gossip on the Internet.

But back to the subject of Lent: Ah yes, besides practicing some online discipline and giving up a few sweeties, well... I don't think I'll win any prizes this year.

And now Holy Week comes upon us. That was fast! The snow just melted. I still haven't spent all my Amazon gift card money that I got for Christmas! Holy Week, already?

A few weeks into Lent this year, I posted this graphic:

This seemed to resonate with many Catholic friends. Of all the things I've posted on social media, nothing has ever been "shared" as much as this Lent/Computer joke! Haha, oh boy... uh, gee... we're all in big trouble.

But really, I hope we've opened up a few places in our souls so that the love of God might work more deeply within us. Sometimes at the beginning of Lent we draw up a large list in the hope of arriving at perfection in six weeks (and most of our list has been scratched by Saint Patrick's day or has at least become "negotiable"). Then there are some of us who feel guilty because our friends have big lists and we... don't.

But these comparisons are not helpful, really. Every person has his or her own vocation, with its own challenges and steps. The most important thing is to take the step that this season places before us.

I tell my children to try to focus on one sacrifice, however "small" it may seem to be, and then be faithful to it. Offer one little piece of daily life, and commit yourself to that offering in freedom. It's not a matter of imposing new "personal laws" on yourself; the Church has penitential practices that are obligatory so that we have a minimal framework for our common life as Christian people. What we offer personally is offered for love, every day. Thus we learn to love a little more.

It is through love that we will begin to glimpse the beauty and goodness of the sacrifices that "law" requires, not only for the time of Lent and Holy Week, but also in the whole realm of morality and growing in Christian maturity. We will begin to glimpse, a little more, the beauty and goodness of the sacrifices and the suffering that life requires of us, and even sometimes imposes on us.

This is how penance becomes beautiful and Lent becomes a time of remembering God's presence. Holy Week is leading to the celebration of Easter, and this celebration is the greatest of all reminders. The whole of Lent would be pretty dark and hopeless if it didn't lead to the joy of Easter. And Easter is near.

Let us hope and pray for a greater attention during Holy Week, a more ardent love, precisely because Easter is near, the Paschal Mystery, the victory of God's Love over sin and death.

In a sense our whole lives are a "Lent" of preparation for our own death, to die with Jesus, so we might rise with Him in the forever-Easter of Love's gift, Love's triumph.