Franciscan Moments @ Saint Miriam: February 17, 2020

“Quaresima” or Fortieth, translates in English to Lent. Lent is when we, as Catholics begin a pilgrimage of fasting and penance and observance of things inside and out. Lent is a period of small sacrifices. In Italy, where St. Francis was born, these Lenten sacrifices are called fioretto, which means little flower. One may decide to enter Lent by giving up their favorite food, limiting meat dishes, or candy or watching TV, but self-denial is ultimately a personal principle. As the world, and even churches, become increasingly lackadaisical about these small things of traditional Lent observances, it is up to each of us, by our own piety, to find our way back to meaningful Lent. Lent must change us, or Lent is not truly Lent. 
 
It is said that St. Francis loved Lent so much that that he observed two more: the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday and later the 40 days before the September 29 feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. St. Francis sometimes observed these ‘little lents’ at LaVerna, a mountainous retreat in Tuscany, or in an isolated spot. In a sense, St. Francis lived Lent year-round. During these times of prayer, St. Francis explored three questions at deeper and deeper levels: Who Is God for Me? Are we God’s Creations, or His Competitors? And, Who Am I Before God? 
 
St. Francis once told his friars, “What a person is before God, that he is and no more.” Honest and persevering prayer will eventually expose our blind spots, lead us to be more grateful to God, and more compassionate toward all God’s creatures, including ourselves. 
 
How will this Lent help us each live more integrated lives; not apart from God, but within Him? Can we dwell on the three questions of St. Francis and see where God will take us by Easter?
 

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