Lenten discernment

Published on 28 Mar 2019

by Teresa McCaffery

I was thinking about what may be learned from the experiences of the first week of the Ignatian exercises and remembered that major repairs, installation of en-suites in some bedrooms, and extensive tree felling in the grounds have been a practical background to my visits to St. Beuno’s recently.  Such work can be noisy and may not seem very spiritual but it is seriously necessary.  The same applies to the first week exercises and the season of Lent.

Weather

In sunshine everyone feels better, we walk more freely, head up, and may attempt some extra activity in honour of the good weather – a picnic maybe, a meal taken outside, a walk or even some gardening.  But the work of the day must also be done, we may have to stay indoors. 

We should welcome consolation, when it comes, like fine weather and thank God for it but we have to take care not to make rash commitments that cannot be honoured.

When it’s wet and windy we don’t feel so happy, we may want to stay inside and mope, or wait for better weather, but again, there is work that must be done.  Sometimes we may have to pull on warm clothes and a hat and carry on regardless. 

When prayer does not come easily, it can be hard, but we might reach for a good spiritual book or find other ways to help us connect to God and try to stay faithful to our commitment to pray, trusting that consolation (like good weather) will return.

Gardening

All plants are of God’s creation, but some are more suited to the wilderness than to a domestic garden.  In addition, we have our own preferences and the size and orientation of the garden will limit what can be done.  We might apply the concept of weeds as plants growing in the wrong place to help us deal with issues that lead us astray.

Some weeds are obvious, and can be rather pretty, but you know that if they go to seed, they will be all over the garden spoiling the view and choking the plants you want.  They must be met head on and removed, preferably with the whole root system. 

Obvious temptations should get summary dismissal!

Other weeds prefer to get going in dark, secret and unexplored places.  If you don’t regularly patrol these neglected places, these weeds will become entrenched and hard to remove. 

Dark and negative thoughts must similarly not be allowed to fester in the mind, and it is helpful to discuss them with a sensible and knowledgeable friend.

Housekeeping

Any homeowner will learn that there is an awful lot of structure to look after.  Failure to keep roof, walls and windows watertight can result in damp, which may rot important structural components.  The locks must work, wiring should be sound and plumbing properly connected with no leaking joints.  And all that is before you start on dusting, washing and all the other regular chores needed to make and keep your home a wholesome and friendly environment.

The first week of the spiritual exercises could be seen as a time when we inspect some of the structures of our spiritual life, where Ignatius invites us to have a long and loving look at the reality with God and to ask for ‘repair’ where we need it.

Lent too is a time when we are invited to do this and to notice those areas of our life that need greater care and attention and to bring them to God. Like structural work on a house, it can be noisy and disturbing at times and it requires ongoing diligence – but it is seriously necessary to keep our spiritual lives in a good state of repair.

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