A fine bumpy start to Lent

I didn’t spend Ash Wednesday waiting in line to get a cross on my forehead. I had a different memento mori: a day on the highways of the northeast corridor, racing home from Florida to beat a winter storm.

The New Jersey Turnpike is an aptly penitential place. Buckled into our car’s passenger seat as my intrepid husband drove, I looked up the day’s readings via the Laudate app on my phone. It was hard to concentrate when the guy in the next lane kept drifting over the line. All ended well: safe travel, only one real delay (the Jersey pike, of course), and we got home six hours before the snow started.

The day had reminded me of many Lents when my children were little. Back then, I always started my day with a list of to-dos (none dare call it a “schedule”), and by 10 a.m. the list had usually been amended beyond recognition. Kids got sick or I got sick or the fridge died or an appointment fell through or the car needed attention or the grocery store was out of whatever. Shift, adapt, cope, move on.

I observed and celebrated the liturgical seasons accordingly, with no time for anything fancy. We all muddled through together, sometimes with ashes on Ash Wednesday and sometimes without.

The rhythms of my life have changed since then. I can actually prepare thoughtfully, more or less, for the liturgical seasons and solemnities and feasts. I take time to pray for the young families in my parish, in an attempt to pay forward the gracious prayerful support we got from older parishioners back in the days when our kids were squirming in the pews. I can work on the long process of cultivating a calm and even temperament.

Then a winter storm, the interstate highway system, and some interesting drivers combine to kick “calm” in the teeth.

Shift, adapt, cope, move on. And laugh, too: our race home happened to be on Ash Wednesday, of all days, and all we could do was offer it up to God in reparation and thanksgiving.

Now I turn to more conventional Lenten disciplines: more frequent Mass and Adoration; focused reading (Fulton Sheen and Dorothy Day: how’s that for a combination?); 40 Days for Life, with a weekly vigil at an appallingly early hour for this night owl. Perhaps I aim low; the most arduous thing about the plan is getting up early. But it is a plan.

As Ash Wednesday reminded me, my plans can go awry. I’ll adapt. The season is what remains steady.

header photo: Steven Liao/Pixabay

What’s a “niche” issue?

The most recent edition of the New Hampshire Sunday News featured an op-ed column from a gentleman well-known in New Hampshire political circles.  The headline cheerfully blared “Senate GOP puts NH families first”. The column went on to list the policy priorities announced by leaders of the New Hampshire Senate majority at a recent press conference.

Something was missing. In the words of the columnist, “Absent from their agenda are niche ideological issues and special interest appeals.” I assume that the columnist and the senators are relegating the right to life to one of those niches.

Tough luck, ladies and gentlemen. The minority party has already introduced legislation to lock abortion into the New Hampshire constitution and statutes. There’s also a bill to repeal the Fetal Life Protection Act altogether. The right to life is on your agenda whether you like it or not. If you think stressing the economy is going to get you past that fact, take a look at the last election.

Read the rest of the post at Leaven for the Loaf.

Header image by Piro/Pixabay.

First things first

…many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and impose terms on many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.

Isaiah 2:2-5, NAB
Photo by Pete Linforth/Pixabay

In the Catholic liturgical year, this Advent’s readings began with the book of Isaiah, including a phrase that is among Isaiah’s most evocative: Swords into plowshares.

The first time I heard those words, I was a child in school, and I read them in an account of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. – a speech now known as “I have a dream.” To me, Dr. King’s call to nonviolence practically set to music the words from the book of Isaiah. The message seemed clear to me: beat our swords into plowshares, and peace will follow.

Still later, reading and hearing the whole of the book of Isaiah, I came to realize that my childhood impression of swords-into-plowshares was upside down. Beating swords into plowshares isn’t a first step. It’s a consequence that can only follow from “[C]limbing the Lord’s mountain…[that] we may walk in his paths.”

Sometimes I think pounding away at the swords would be easier. And just in time, Advent is here to nudge me away from that idea, to turn my impressions upside down, and to point me to that mountain I’m supposed to climb.