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It started with missing Mass on Ash Wednesday and continued like a landslide. Although Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, we have always worn our ashes with some pride. In fact, with too much pride: how superior were we to those who did not have burnt palms applied to their foreheads. We even secretly enjoyed the startled looks of our non-Catholic friends and passersby when they saw the smudged crosses on our foreheads.
We intended to make it a good Lent. We had our lists of "give ups": martinis, a radical cut in television watching, lunch. And we had our Lenten to-do list. The spirit was willing, but the flesh let us down again. Events crowded in on us. A hasty trip to a distant parent. An unexpected illness. All minor league, but our good intentions slipped out the backdoor. Let's say our efforts have been uneven. Visiting the Pacific Northwest allowed being good guests and joining hosts in a cocktail. Lunch: by 4 p.m. we are so hungry and irritable that it hardly seemed to be in the spirit of Christianity. Oh, did we neglect to mention their large flat-screen, 3D-TV?
After this lame beginning of Lent, we decided to flood the psyche with efforts to make another start. The seven deadly sins were a review: pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, sloth. We started with pride, but that was like trying to nail down jelly. Everything we were proud about we knew came from another source, the hard work of a parent or teacher. And if we weren't so lazy, our few talents should be better developed.
Coveting? All this long, snowy winter, we have coveted our neighbor's snow blower, along with his 60-inch TV and his home's new paint job. Coveting has been all too easy.
Lust. We'll skip this one since this is a family publication.
Anger. That's ongoing. We've been doing our state and federal taxes, trying to track down itsy-bitsy pieces of paper to itemize the expenses of our home-office from whence these columns emerge! What evil genius devised this torturous, annual ordeal? We harbor anger over yet another Washington policy limiting the freedom of Church efforts to stop abortion. Or our fruitless attempts to find a real, live person at the end of the telephone call to customer service. Even worse, booking an airline flight by yourself. These make the head steam.
Gluttony is an on-going issue when dining out or even shopping at a grocery store. Just too many temptations in the form of a tantalizing chocolate cake.
Envy? Maybe we don't envy peoples' personal wealth, but perhaps their organizational skills and computer savvy. Wouldn't we love to be organized with all the papers and receipts needed for the IRS. The resolve to be better organized sometimes even goes as far as purchasing folders and expanding files in which to store receipts. However, another year rolls around with the same lackadaisical efforts.
And sloth. If it were not for sloth we might master tax time better. Keep all this information on-line? You must be kidding. We can barely find a new window for writing a column. More sloth. We don't even want to hear from our friends about their 5:30 a.m. rising, two-mile jogs and Pilates classes.
Finally, greed. That ubiquitous "I want! I want! I want!" voice that goes off every time a car commercial comes on the TV screen or, again, when we hear the roar of our neighbor's jet-propelled snow blower. Actually our greed has been momentarily suppressed, thanks to those overpaid IRS bullies who for now have crushed the possibility of all our sugar-plumed, greedy desires.
No doubt about it. So far, our Lent has been a washout. Lent shouldn't be like New Year's Resolutions with big promises that inevitably crumble. However, Lent offers a chance for self-reflection and we should not miss this chance to review our lives.
Maybe we are feeling sorry for ourselves. If so, we can take up the Old Testament and delve into the struggles Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had to endure. Even if, so far, our Lent has been a disaster, we can pick ourselves up and try again. Even at this late date what could we sacrifice? How about giving up pronouncing so many opinions or being so critical. Father will probably remind us on Sunday to spend 10 minutes in daily mental prayer or to increase our spiritual reading. We still have time before the glory of Easter. And there is the rich moving liturgy of Holy Week ahead of us.
A silent prayer: Don't give up on us Lord.
Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline.