Tag Archives: Habits

Lent: Prayer; Fasting; Alms-giving

I’m just a couple of days into Lent. I never like it per se, but I always try to make it productive and helpful in my spiritual growth. Lent is about Fasting, in other words, sacrificing in some way for God, focusing on prayer more, and alms-giving, or generosity. I initially decided to give up coffee because I Really. Love .Coffee. I figured out that it costs about $2 to buy a cup of coffee, and since Lent is forty days, I’ll give $80 to a charity through our church.

Then I realized I could do a few other things. I play this dumb game, 2048 on my phone. I realized that I spend kind of a lot of time on it, just when I have to wait, or whatever. I didn’t realize just how much time I spend playing it. So I cut that, too. Then I realized that I spend an awful lot of time “curiosity questing,” which basically means watching a lot of lectures and what not on YouTube, or listening to several hours worth of podcast episodes. I cut that, too. I went a little hard-core this year.

It feels awkward, but somehow I’m finding it easier than expected. On Wednesday after work I ran into the question “Uh… what do I do now?” I could have read, but at the moment, I’m reading The Divine Comedy, which requires the capacity to think. My brain was sort of shot at that point, so I had two options: video games, or prayer. I opted for the latter. For the record, it’s not because I’m some holy woman. It’s because I didn’t feel like playing any of the games I have. I actually ended up checking out some stuff from FORMED. I realized, maybe a bit too slowly, that it’s basically Catholic Netflix.

I ended up checking out a series called “Into The Desert.” It’s actually quite good, and it’s about a type of prayer called Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading. Basically, there are four steps to it, but one is supposed to start by simply reading a bit of Scripture, meditating on it, and then praying with that in mind. I’ve been working on that over the past couple of days. There aren’t too many episodes, and they’re not too long, so I figure I’ll watch the rest of these and see where things go. A suggestion I read for something to do over Lent is to carefully read the Gospel of Mark since it’s the shortest and most concise. I’m trying to use what I’ve learned so far while reading the Gospel. I think it’s been a fruitful experience.

I also decided a while ago that I’d commit to praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary every day during Lent. I woke up around five this morning, and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I read and prayed for a while. Sometimes I do the Rosary with a recording that uses Scripture verses. I got to the verse where Pilate says to the crowd, “I’m innocent of this righteous man’s blood. See to it yourselves.” I thought, “If you don’t do anything to stop something bad from happening to an innocent person when you very well could, you’re definitely guilty.” It then hit me that I’m guilty, or at least I’ve been guilty.

I know I’ve probably been there. I know there have been times where I could have stopped something bad, or at least inconvenient from happening to someone, and I did nothing. The thing is, I can’t think of any concrete examples. I think we’re blind to it. I can think of a time recently when I did do something. I’ll be getting a new wheelchair soon, so my dad and I went to the hospital recently to meet with someone who needed to show me some features, figure out exactly what I want, and get some measurements. While we were in the waiting room, there was a woman with a fussy kid in a stroller. She was the kind of kid who would drive any normal person, myself included, crazy.

My inclination was to ignore them. The kid was seriously bored and whiney, and refused to indulge in any of the things her mom offered her to alleviate the boredom. I was bored, too. We had to wait I while. I didn’t have my phone, or it was dead, so I asked my dad to help me get my Rosary, which I normally have in my bag. Apparently I had left it at home. The kid’s mom, I could tell, was getting frustrated, so I said, “Hey, kid… you want a ride? You can ride on the back of my wheelchair, or sit on my lap if you want.” The kid didn’t respond, and her mom kindly declined, but I could tell she was at least vaguely relieved and grateful for some offer of help. Thus we commiserated.

Sometimes commiseration is all you can offer, but commiseration, I know from experience, is better than nothing. I sometimes wonder why Saint John or Mary–Jesus’ Mom–never said anything while standing by the cross. They couldn’t have said, “It’ll be okay.” He was dying. Yeah, He was going to rise from the dead, and Mary probably knew that, and maybe John kind of knew that, at least in theory, but the fact of the matter was that He was dying. All they could do was stand there so He knew, and could see that somebody cared enough to stand there.

In the video I watched today, Dr. Tim Gray talked about how prayer is about relationship, and intimacy with God. He said that God is love, and if we are to converse with, and know God–know Love–we have to know how to love. He said that before Jesus taught His disciples how to pray, He talked about alms-giving; charity; generosity. After He talked about prayer, He talked about fasting. Particularly, when talking about fasting, He explains that we’re not supposed to look miserable and whine about it while we’re doing it so that people will see that we’re doing it and believe that we’re holy by default.

In fact, Jesus says that we’re meant to be discreet about what we do when it comes to fasting, charity, and prayer. We’re not supposed to brag about it, and we’re not supposed to whine about it. Realistically, the things I dropped this Lent were just habits that can be broken or adjusted. I think I’ll permanently drop 2048. I’ll definitely be having a cup of coffee on Easter, though. The “curiosity questing” just needs to be monitored better, so this will certainly help with that. I’m glad I’m really cutting all of it down, though because I’m already, just within the past two days, praying a lot more, and I think, being more thoughtful about it. Anyway, that’s it for now.

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Giving Up Facebook And Getting A Bird

As many of you know, I am Catholic, so I gave up Facebook for Lent. I’ve found the experience interesting because I’ve found that while I am more productive without social media, I’m not as productive as I thought I would be. I guess I should add that I’m a little obsessed with being productive. I feel like I have a responsibility to the world to accomplish things because I was blessed and lucky enough to be born and raised in upper middle class America.

That being said, I think I have a slightly different idea of what being productive means than some people. Being productive to me doesn’t always mean completing tasks. Being productive to me sometimes means trying new things or making sure I’m enjoying time with people I love, and letting them know how much I love them. I fully believe that love is contagious and can be spread more easily than people might think.

Because I’m not on Facebook, I am getting a lot done, however. In fact, I’m amazed at just how much I can get done, and how much free time I still have. I didn’t realize just how much time I was wasting on something that was really rather pointless.

However, Facebook does have its merits. When I decided to quit the day before Ash Wednesday, I was sure I was going to miss a lot. I was convinced that when I got back on I would be completely out of the loop. Facebook allows us to keep up with what’s going on in our friends’ and families’ lives so easily, that the thought of not knowing is a bit scary. My family is friends with a lady named Charlene. She’s in her early sixties and doesn’t use Facebook. She comes over once or twice a week with her silly little dog to hang out and chat, and she was telling us yesterday (March 2nd) that she had been completely unaware that one of her friends had recently lost their dog, and another friend had had a child.

My mom is on Facebook, and we’re “friends” with a lot of the same people, so I don’t actually think I’m missing much. If I was, she’d probably tell me. I do intend to start using it again after Easter, but I intend to use it a lot less than I was. I still need to use it for my music, and I don’t want to be completely in the dark as to what people are up to. Plus I have a hilarious surprise for everyone.

On Friday I’m going to New Hampshire to buy a bird. I had a parakeet several years ago, and he died at the age of 12. I’ve been petless for far too long now, so for graduation my parents are buying a conure for me. If I get a boy his name will be Seamus, and if it’s a girl, her name will be Lucy. Only a few people know I’m getting him/her, so it’ll give me an excuse to be random. I’ll post pictures here, too because, let’s face it, I get way too excited about cute animals: especially when they’re mine.

Some people say giving something up for Lent is silly and superficial. I think in many cases it is, and I usually don’t do it. Instead, I try to get rid of bad habits or adopt good ones. This year I’m trying to get rid of a very old, and in my opinion, very bad habit. I don’t feel comfortable posting about it, and I’ve actually tried and failed several times. It’s too personal, and it involves someone that is very important to me. This person doesn’t know about it, and it doesn’t really even affect them. It’s just something I don’t like about myself, so I’m trying to get rid of it. In the past I’ve tried using negative reinforcement, and that hasn’t worked, so now I’m trying positive reinforcement and that seems to be working a little better.

Ultimately, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Lent doesn’t have to suck. It can actually be that little extra push that people need to get something done or make a change or just attempt at being a little more conscious of spiritual matters. Sometimes I don’t do anything at all, and I kind of feel like I’m missing something if I don’t. I actually feel like it’s an opportunity that is easily missed.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!