15 February 2010

A Rich Harvest for the Heart

As we approach this sacred season of Lent, we are reminded of the way in which St. Francis de Sales invites us to traverse the 40 days which lead us to the Lord's Passion. For many of us, Lent may seem like a season of privation -- a dry, dusty road which begins with ashes and ends on Calvary. To St. Francis de Sales, Lent was a "spiritual autumn" -- a time in which we are invited to gather a rich and bountiful harvest so that it will serve to nourish our souls for the rest of the year until the next Lent begins. Those of us who do not stock root cellars with a winter's worth of squash and beets may have a hard time finding this image "fruitful" but perhaps a suggestion might help.

There are many ways to observe the season of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the primary means suggested to us by the Church. They are all good and fruitful for our souls. It seems, however, that most often we hear people speak of "giving up" something for Lent. When done in the correct spirit, foregoing something to which we have a right is a very good way to fast. In many cases, this fast -- say for example giving up chocolate or some other delectable food -- kept for the season of Lent, usually finds a happy reward when Easter Sunday provides a banquet of pastel-colored M&Ms and other traditional candy. In addition to fasting from something to which we are entitled, we might want to consider refraining from something that we do not want to resume on Easter Sunday. In this case, it might be more appropriate to call it a discipline rather than a fast (since a "fast" usually implies foregoing something which is good for us or pleasing to us from which we deliberately refrain.) Perhaps we find ourselves speaking uncharitably about someone with whom we work. If this is a habit we would like to uproot from our lives, making it a Lenten discipline means that we are training ourselves to continue this practice when the season of Lent is over. If, by the grace of God, we are able to practice a discipline during Lent which helps us to grow in virtue then we have begun to stock the "root cellar" of our hearts with a sort of fruit which will nourish our us -- and those around us -- for a long time to come.

Let us, this Lent, seek to fill our hearts with spiritual fruit which will transform our lives and help us to see the Lord in all those around us. "Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God" ... everywhere!

"His heart is the King of hearts and he keeps his eyes fixed on our hearts."
St. Francis de Sales

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