The Campaign of Lent
The Collect for the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday, the day which marks the beginning of our 40 days of preparation for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery, calls Lent a “campaign.”
Admittedly, when I hear this word, my mind drifts and I often associate “campaign” with running for a political office or kicking off a project like a capital campaign. Therefore, in a certain sense, I’ve had to pray to unlearn its meaning and to seek out what it truly is.
“Campaign,” like so many words in English, is derived from the Latin word, campus. Campus means an open or flat space; a plain. It also can mean an opportunity. In light of the various definitions, how might they be applied to Lent? Furthermore, how might those meanings apply to a young man who is thinking of the priesthood of Jesus?
The season of Lent aims at preparing us for Easter. By our attention to the three disciplines of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, we open ourselves like an open plain — we open a space in our hearts in order that we might be more attuned to the manifold ways God has worked and is working inside each one of us, as well as to what opportunities God wants us to pursue and consider further in order to more closely ally ourselves with His holy will.
A young man considering whether or not he may be called to follow Jesus as a priest must be open and attuned to the various ways God has and is working in his life. Moreover, the space that is laid open before the Lord in the heart of a young man must also see that the work God is doing in his life is both an opportunity and invitation to allow Him to work further and to lead us where He wants us to go.
Maybe during these next Lenten days, rather than solely focusing our attention on what we are giving up or sacrificing, we could focus on the possibility — the opportunity — of adding something (i.e., a discipline or practice) to our Lenten journey. Each Lent provides us with an opportunity to cultivate and deepen our relationship, our friendship with Christ, which opens us more to receive His love and grace.
If a young man reading this article is having difficulty determining what to do for Lent, perhaps he can start with a few, if not all of these recommendations:
- Get out of bed immediately upon hearing your alarm and strive to make a good morning offering.
- Ask God each day for the grace to seek His will above your own.
- Meditate upon the daily Mass readings.
- In the free time between moving from one thing to the next (e.g., between classes, waiting for an appointment, etc.), instead of immediately reaching for your cellphone, take a few moments to simply acknowledge the presence of God.
- Give Our Lord your daily challenges and sufferings, whatever they may be.
- At the conclusion of the day, take the time to do an examen (i.e., prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for us).
- Thank God for the blessings of the day and resolve to correct faults.
By opening himself more and by availing himself of the many opportunities to receive the grace that our Lord offers to him, a young man thinking and praying about the priesthood can have a successful “campaign” of Lent. Maybe adding some of these practical suggestions, instead of solely giving up things, is a good way to start.