February 10, 2015 // Local

K.I.S.S. — Keep it simple sinner

By Father James Shafer

Growing up in a Catholic home, Lent was one of my favorite Church seasons. It was not because of the “penances” my mother imposed on all of us — we all fasted and abstained regardless of age — nor was it because I enjoyed the severity of the season. I think I liked it because it was different from the rest of the year and I felt like I was doing something with my faith. I remember going to Stations of the Cross, fish on all Fridays and the endless list of things given up. And, too, I remember failing at many of my Lenten resolutions … and having much Catholic guilt about it.

Over the years, I have fallen more deeply in love with this holy season of Lent. My personal practice of it has deepened and my understanding about it is much enriched. I now know that it is about my personal baptismal relationship with God. I now know that it is about sharpening my spiritual focus, about getting off the treadmill of sin, about increasing the feeding of my soul. It is a 40-day examination and retreat on my spiritual well being.

In relationship with all of that and the past 40 years of experience as a priest, a few years ago I approached my parishioners with a new plan for engaging this Lenten season. My experience taught me that I was usually not successful in my Lenten endeavors; that I normally proposed much and produced little; that I ended up more frustrated than renewed.

Soooooo — how about K.I.S.S., Keep It Simple Sinner. I proposed a plan I called 1-1-1. I would focus on ONE sin that I would really work on, some failure in my God/Church relationship, something perhaps habitual that was interfering with my personal relations with God or others or self.

Secondly, I would add in ONE spiritual exercise to feed my soul — Scripture reading, extra Masses, rosary, Stations, Adoration, etc. This addition would help to spur growth in my faith life.

And thirdly, I would make ONE sacrifice that would remind me of my longing for God and going home one day. It would be a denial that I would feel, sense, know I was doing and why I was doing it. It would not be silly or frivolous or easy — something tough —like giving up electronics, texting, TV, games or any “toys” of life that were possessing me. And every time I missed it, I would remind myself that the longing I had for it was a mere wisp of the longing of my soul for a love life with God.

All of the above plan presumes I will pray and think about my upcoming Lent. I have to plan it and desire it or I will not do it. I have to set my will to enter wholeheartedly into this beautiful and holy season, embrace it with every ounce of strength I have.

Satan wishes me to be unsuccessful in drawing closer to the Lord. The Evil One wants me to fail. So the will must be firmly set. With a 1-1-1 plan in place before Ash Wednesday, the blessing of those holy ashes will have something to fall upon in my heart when I receive it on Ash Wednesday.

A Blessing of Ashes — something that has died and become something else — now blesses my Lenten journey — so something in me can die and become something else — more in my Church, in my Catholic faith, in my God who loves me. Enjoy your Lent and smile a bunch! Happy Lent!

Father James Shafer is the pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne.



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