Catholics take time each year to concentrate on growing more virtuous. This time of year is called “Lent.” For forty days we journey with Jesus Christ in the desert facing our temptations and awakening to our sinful tendencies. It is not the strenuous work of acquiring greater virtue that tires us during our spiritual mountain climb. It is our vices that are like painful pebbles stuck in our shoes which sabotage our life journeys and discourage our Lenten climb.
It’s good to awaken to our vices. Fasting, alms-giving, and prayer in combination help us to see ourselves more clearly. New converts to Catholicism often embark on the Lenten journey with great enthusiasm. Long-time Catholics are familiar with the climb and may not share the same excitement. Many tentative Catholics may decide to just walk around the foothills and never really climb the mountain. Some perfectionistic and obsessive Catholics can miss the whole point and create more struggles for themselves, like I did. For example, Lenten fasting is not a good thing for women who have eating disorders or teenage girls who already struggle with body image and perfectionism. It would be better for them to fast from something other than food like electronics or social media.
The faithful Catholic pilgrims will often get their ashes today on Ash Wednesday and resolve to cooperate with God’s grace, thereby seeking to improve their lives in whatever way God may have planned for them. No matter how many Lenten journeys up the mountain side we’ve traveled in our lives, the scenery changes every year. Every year we walk alone until our pebbles grow so painful that we decide to take our shoe off and toss our vices away. May God grant you the gift to feel your own painful vices today and set you free to live in peace.