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Oblate Blog: February 20, 2012: Lent

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 Lent, 2012, begins on Wednesday, February 22, what is usually referred to as ASH WEDNESDAY. The Rule of St. Benedict is usually considered to be a rather brief rule of life for monks. However, in this rather brief rule St. Benedict devotes one brief chapter to THE OBSERVANCE OF LENT. This is chapter 49 – I encourage each oblate to try to go to this chapter and re-read it before the season of Lent begins or at least at the beginning of Lent.

St. Benedict begins by saying that: "The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligence’s of other times."

How do we do that? St. Benedict devotes part of the chapter then to telling us how he sees the monks and followers of his Rule can do that – and this includes also the oblates who also try to follow the Rule as best you can in your state in life.

St. Benedict seems to be saying in this chapter that Lent is the model for the whole of life, but that this season of Lent brings an annual opportunity for extra effort. What happens in Lent should in principle happen in all our life. Many times in his Rule St. Benedict shows that the individual should never do anything on his own that makes him look better or holier that the other members of the community. In other words, one should not do things that draw attention to him or herself. So here in this chapter also St. Benedict speaks of the entire community doing something to keep its manner of life most pure, but also indicates the need for an individual to do something to help accomplish this.

So he tells the monks to share with the abbot what he or she plans to do extra during the Lenten season. We do not let the entire community know how much I am fasting or giving to charity. To do that makes it something public and even competitive. "I fast more than you do". What is most important during Lent is an interior transformation. Oblates are welcome to send your Lenten works to me in the oblate office, if you wish, for a blessing. But, more important I think, is that you share them with your husband or wife, with a good friend, a spiritual friend of someone who knows you quite well. I do encourage each oblate to write down what they are trying to do during Lent and then put that someplace where you see it off and on during Lent, but not in a public place where everyone can see it who comes into your office or home.

Lent of course points toward Easter and St. Benedict here in this chapter 49 speaks of the forty days preparing for Easter as a time of looking forward "with joy and spiritual longing." Esther deWaal in her commentary on the Rule speaks of compunction being an important part of Lent. Compunction, she says, "brings a sense of sharp pain, a stinging that I experience as I am touched, overwhelmed by this love, which reaches out to love and forgive and to end all that separates us. ….Compunction draws from me a positive response to the love of God flooding my life and drawing me on to fuller and better things."

We might explain it by saying it is…" the comparison between what we are and what we could be that constitutes the triggering cause of compunction." This is what we try to accomplish during Lent. We try to be more of what we could be, realizing what we are at present.

I pray that you have a blessed and holy Lent. Let us pray for one another in a special way during this Holy Season.