For Lent this year, I decided to do two things, both of which came to me at the spur of the moment mere days before Ash Wednesday. Looking back, I realize now they were thoughts that didn't come from me.
Commenting on my friend Kim's status that Monday about her proposed Lenten sacrifice, I was about to type that I'd be giving up buying books (something I've done for the past several years, because I'm an addict, really) but instead found my fingers tapping out that I'd be going to daily Mass. As I hit enter to post the comment, I realized how perfect that actually was. I tend to guard my mornings somewhat selfishly. I like to ease into my day; sleep as late as possible, check my mail/Facebook over my bowl of cereal, read a little, enjoy my tea or coffee, and not rush (although I usually end up rushing anyway, because really, I'm lollygagging). And I tend to go through phases with daily Mass, where I'll go for a while, and then stop. But whenever I start going regularly again, I wonder why on earth I quite.
The first few days of Lent were rough. As a reporter, I don't typically have to be in the office until 9:30, so generally sleep until 8:15 or so. But daily Mass started at 8:30, so I was getting up between 7 and 7:30... by which time most people are already up and at 'em and out the door. But as the 40 days went on, it definitely got easier. There were three days I missed Mass, twice because I turned off the alarm and overslept and once because of a work commitment. Those three days I just felt incomplete. Did I miss sleeping later? Of course--sleeping in until 10 this morning (after going to Easter vigil last night) felt positively decadent. But having the set time to pray quietly and receiving Jesus focused me for the day. Plus I got to office a little earlier, which, oddly enough, made the workdays seem to pass more quickly.
The second thing was what I decided to read. No doubt prompted by the Holy Spirit (since it wasn't even in the stack of books I'd been considering), I've been reading JPII's "Theology of the Body." Back in 2001, I'd borrowed it from a friend, but didn't get very far. I bought myself a copy in 2008, not long after hearing Christopher West speak in Naples, and that time managed to read about 100 pages, or the first section of part I, "The Original Unity of Man and Woman, a Catechesis on the book of Genesis."
So on Ash Wednesday, I started again from the beginning, a different color of ink joining my notes and underlinings from three years before. I'm nowhere near done, but I've made it past the first 100 pages.
The beauty of JPII is how much he can glean from just a few verses. Because the text is so dense, there were times I'd have to read a paragraph several times, or bop back and forth between pages (or sections) as connections were revealed. And since I'm one to read foot and end notes (which often revealed fun new words, like kardiognostes and sklerokardia), those often revealed even more of the onion-like layers of our faith. Or, as Blessed John Henry Newman said, "Every passage in the history of our Lord and Savior is of unfathomable depth, and affords inexhaustible matter of contemplation." Unless, of course, the end notes were in a language I don't know. Notes in Spanish, and even Italian, I could work out, but occasionally there would be a note in, say, German, that was of no help to me. I found myself laughingly talking to the Venerable JPII, saying that while he spoke something like 12 languages, my skills didn't reach so far.
But as I continue to read, I'm learning a lot and finding in his words a comfort and a strength as I wait for "the accomplishment of (my) vocation."
So for the next 50 days of Easter celebration (and beyond), I'll keep reading. My alarm will remain set for 7:15. And I'll keep listening to that guiding voice, dropping suggestions in my ear to lead me closer along the path He wants me to follow. Because, in His infinite wisdom, He knows what I need more so than do I.