Katie Faley: Why I hope to prepare for a fruitful Lent 2022 the Marian Way
Cause of Our Joy / Katie Faley
I’ll be honest, Lent is not my favorite season. It always seems to catch me off guard. There are a million ways I can think of Lent as an inconvenience to the regular routines of my life. But then I remember why we celebrate Lent, think about Jesus carrying the cross for me, and get over myself. Until, of course, 30 minutes later when I think about how hungry I am on a Friday night, how nothing sounds better than a steak dinner, and I’m back to square one.
It’s usually Mary that leads me back to the practices of the faith. I turned to the Gospels to show me how Mary can guide us in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving throughout Lent. I plan to use Mary’s example as my guide to make this a fruitful and spiritually enriching Lent.
I often think of prayer as something that needs to be beautifully crafted and poetic. But Mary reminds us that one of the simplest prayers is, “Yes, Lord.”
When the angel appears to Mary and announces the coming birth of Jesus, Mary says, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” She gives her yes to God’s will in spite of all the questions she may have had. When she goes to visit Elizabeth, Mary glorifies God, assures us of His unending forgiveness, and shares the goodness and generosity of God through her Magnificat. In all of these words, Mary gives her yes to God and reminds us that He keeps His promises.
During Lent, I intend to keep those words, “Yes, Lord,” as a constant prayer in imitation of Mary. When I’m tempted to take a break from Lent, I will say, “Yes, Lord” in acceptance of the sacrifice and in obedience to His Will.
When Jesus was a child, Mary took Him to the Temple to present Him to the Lord. There, Simeon prophesied that Mary’s heart would be pierced by the sword. If it were me in this situation, I would probably crumble to the floor and complain about how tough my life is.
Mary, however, kept the most powerful realities of God and her life with Jesus in her heart. She knew that suffering and sacrifice would be a part of her life when she said yes to God. She continued to say yes anyway. And she did it without complaining.
Each Lent I try to give something up as a sacrifice and add something in to replace whatever I gave up — usually a different kind of prayer practice (a daily rosary, eucharistic Adoration, weekly confession, etc.). But I don’t live out my Lent perfectly, and I usually complain to whoever will listen. This Lent, I am going to remember these words from the Gospels, “She kept all these things in her heart,” to remind me how Mary used her suffering to grow in love with and for God instead of complaining.
Almsgiving is simply love in action. Mary’s presence is the perfect example of almsgiving, especially as Jesus carried the cross. Jesus even gives Mary to all humankind as a mother when he was dying on the cross. Mary is always there for Jesus and all of us as a mother, comforting and being present.
Likewise, giving alms during Lent means being present to and making a gift of ourselves for those in need. It could mean writing to someone who is lonely, cooking a meal for a neighbor who is sick, preparing bags of essential food and personal care items for people experiencing homelessness, sponsoring the education of a student in a developing country, being with a friend who is sad or in pain, or it may be volunteering to clean your parish once a week. What Mary teaches us is that showing up and making ourselves present is love in action.
During this Lenten season, I am going to keep Mary and the words of the Gospels at the front of my mind. I will ask for her intercession constantly, so that I might be more like her when I am tempted to give up or complain about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and a writing coordinator for OSF HealthCare. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org .