How’s your Lent going? One of the things I love about Lent (no, it’s not the fasting) is that I get a second chance at that New Year’s resolution I have long since broken. Even better, I’m convinced that during Lent Our Lord gives us extra graces to persevere in our resolutions. Perhaps this is because during Lent our sacrifices are aimed at uniting ourselves more closely to His holy cross.
Last week Our Lord made it very clear what He wanted me to give up for Lent. You see, I love my kids, obviously. And I’m truly grateful to be able to stay at home with them. But sometimes, being home with them all day can be a real pain. On any given day, there are so many things my precious ones can do to annoy or frustrate me, not necessarily out of their own fault, but rather because I have the misfortune of being the perfectionist type.
Here is a list of things that made me feel disgruntled and discouraged the day after Ash Wednesday: boys squabbling about whether getting hit by Nerf gun bullets hurt or not (as if they had never heard the rule: don’t shoot at people), someone wet his/her bed, dishes not cleaned from the night before, dirt all over the foyer with shoes spilling out of the coat closet, someone wearing clothes pulled out of the dirty laundry basket and insisting they were clean, tattle-taling, kids bickering over cereal, spilt milk, pee on the toilet seat, and someone using all the toilet paper in the washroom without replacing it. Grrr…. Need I go on?
Needless to say, by mid-morning I was feeling pretty frustrated. Will my kids ever learn to be tidy, clean, and considerate? Later that morning, I was trying to put little Junior down for a nap. As I sat beside him waiting for him to fall asleep, I picked up my spiritual reading for Lent, In Conversations with God, Daily Meditations for Lent and Eastertide. And holy moly, the words jumped right out at me:
We will normally find the Cross each day in the sort of petty annoyances that may occur at work, and which usually present themselves to us through people around us. It may be something unexpected, the difficult character of a person with home we have to live, plans perhaps that have to be changed at the last minute, stubborn materials or instruments of work that fail us when we most need them. Discomfort, maybe caused by cold, or heat, or noise… misunderstanding. A below-par seediness that impairs our efficiency on a particular day.
We have to accept these daily pinpricks courageously, offering them to God in a spirit of reparation without complaint. Those mortifications that crop up unexpectedly can help us, if we receive them well, to grow in the spirit of penance that we need so much, and to improve in the virtues of patience, of charity, of understanding: that is to say, in holiness. It we receive our setbacks with a bad spirit, it can cause us to rebel, or to become impatient or discouraged. Many Christians have lost their joy at the end of the day, not because of big reverses, but because they have not known how to sanctify the tiredness caused by work, or the little snags and minor frustrations which have arisen during the day. When we accept the Cross – little or great – it produces peace and joy in the midst of pain and is laden with merits for eternal life. – Fr. Francis Fernandez
Was Fr. Francis flying one of those spy-drones over my house? How did he know those were exactly the words I needed to hear?
To accept these daily pinpricks courageously, offering them to God in a spirit of reparation without complaint. Besides the usual Lenten practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, this is what I hope to do this Lent. When my kids do something annoying, I hope to fast from interior griping and complaining, to pray for patience and good humor, and to offer up the annoyance in reparation for sins, a sort of spiritual almsgiving. Above all, I want to unite these petty crosses to the Cross of Our Lord for the salvation of sinners.
On a practical level, this also means I don’t have to correct my kids for every little mess, argument, or mistake that they make. At least for the season of Lent, I can let those little things go and offer them up instead. When I trip over shoes in the hallway, instead of searching out and berating the culprit, I’m just going to pick them up and put them away with a little prayer. When the boys leave their room looking like a hurricane went through it, I’ll do them the favor of quietly tidying it up and saying a prayer for them. I suspect that my kids will learn just as much from a cheerful demeanour and patient smile as from a lecture on why they need to replace the toilet paper. Knowing this gives me so much peace, already.
So dear Mammas, I hope you will join me this Lent in lovingly embracing the little crosses that come with motherhood. Let’s turn the countless annoyances that pester us all day long into sacrifices of love. And I hope that in doing so, you find peace and joy. May this be one of your holiest Lents yet!