Next week begins lent, bringing up a mixture of feelings inside me. Last year during lent, it was the phase of "purification and enlightenment" for those of us joining the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. I took it very seriously in that regard. In protestant churches I had been a member of before, lent was a part of our church calendar. We gave something up, like ice cream or whisky or whatever, and waited for Easter. It was just something we did that time of year.
Catholicism, I found, was very different. On Ash Wednesday, we know we are preparing for an important ordeal- oops, I mean undertaking. I had never done the "Stations of the Cross" before, but I did them every Friday throughout lent. I gave up lots of things- diet coke for a day, computer games for a week, not just ice cream, although I did give that up. Holy week was so intense I could do almost nothing but contemplate God. What I did during that time of "purification and enlightenment" set the tone for my entire lifestyle and identity today as a Catholic. My actions helped form a deep resolve and commitment to Christ. With this depth of cleansing, I was more fully prepared for the joy and freedom Easter represents.
I include for you here the act of contrition I wrote myself for my first confession in February of last year. The night before my first confession, I had fitful sleep, kept dreaming about being in purgatory and was repeating the "sinner's prayer," over and over just to try to settle all the disturbance in my mind. But, the product of my anguish was this simple prayer I wrote from the depths of my heart, which I might pray during this lent to remind myself of my original promise to God.
Dearest Jesus, I am overcome with grief for having mistreated the gifts you have given me and for living a life far outside the Divine Order you intended for me. I can hold nothing back from you ever again, but firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to offer you the purest fruits of living that are possible from my heart. Help me love and glorify you in all that I am, say and do. Kindle in me constantly the desire and the hunger for good and the obedience never to question the life and tasks you set before me.
Help me always to follow your path and delight in your will. Please give me the strength to dedicate my life to your glory. Although I will always be an unworthy servant, give me confidence to speak and act as one you love and cherish. Don't let me turn my back on you again, but to be ever loyal. Show me what I must do to set things right and help me have strength and courage to carry that out.
Take me as yours, forever and always,
In your name I pray.