T THE BEGINNING OF LENT Lent I tend to read too much about how to keep this penitential season. Being unable to fast 1 I try to think of creative ways to keep Lent. Then an article like this brings me right back down to earth.
Don’t lose the merit: Keep it secret, keep it safe – written by a Benedictine Oblate drawing on her formation with the Canadian Oratorians. She elaborates on St Philip Neri’s exhortation amare nescire or to love to be unknown.
It really reinforces one of the recent Gospel readings:
But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. — Matthew 6:3-4
Of course this goes for prayer and fasting as well. When we tell our good deeds, we receive the praise of our listeners and lose some of the reward which would otherwise have been ours.
Many visionaries showed this in their great reluctance to tell of the favours God granted their souls. Many saints lives were only written under obedience and many such accounts surprised their daily companions by how much the saintly soul had kept hidden.
Then the really interesting part of the article was where it compares different sorts of public prayer gatherings. You know the sort that focus on the community of believers.
I can tell you there’s nothing more embarrassing, more excruciating and cringe-inducing for me than being asked to “share” my “faith” or my “prayer life”
But she goes on to show how it is important to come together for prayer and very possible to do so without losing the merit.
… there is a huge difference between formal, public liturgy – what one of the Oratorian Fathers called with a wink the “bowing and scraping” – and what goes on “cor ad cor”.
And this what brought the real idea of Lenten penances home to me. It’s not something I can show off as an example to my kids. It’s not a competition to out do our Orthodox brethren. It’s about a personal relationship with Jesus – cor ad cor or heart to heart.
You can read the whole article here.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 A new Brandtling is expected to arrive around September.