"It takes uncommon virtue to fulfill with exactitude, that is, without carelessness, negligence, or indolence …
but with attention, piety, and spiritual fervor,
the whole combination of ordinary duties which make up our daily life!"
– Pope Pius XVI
Lent arrives, in my opinion, at the perfect time of year. By the end of February or beginning of March, I am tired of the snow, the cold weather, and the short, dark days. In truth, I can sometimes be found having a little pity party for myself, and while in this state of mind, I might consider cutting some corners on the everyday, tedious tasks that make up my daily duty. I deserve it, right?! Will the world end if I leave dirty dishes in the sink or let the laundry pile up? Is it necessary to make the bed everyday? Eat right? Exercise? Pray? And yet, just as I am tempted to slack off, here comes Lent, with its directive to begin anew, to live sacrificially, and to love with greater fervor.
My sports-loving husband was fond of encouraging our sports-loving children with his wisdom: “When you think you have given all you can…remember, there is always a little more in the tank. Don’t underestimate yourself.”
His wisdom is fitting advice for Lent, as well. Despite my feelings of weariness and ennui, I know that by the grace of God, there is more in my tank and I can do the hard work of Lent.
The three pillars of Lent – prayer, almsgiving, and fasting – all require us to give a little bit more, whether it be time, money, food, or another pleasurable activity. Sacrifice always requires us to enter a place of discomfort. Sacrifice is uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Yet, we can be encouraged by the words of the late Pope Benedict XVI: “The ways of the Lord are not comfortable. We were not created for comfort, but for greatness.”
By “great” he does not mean those things that are considered earth-shattering, that are performed by brilliant or famous people. Instead, more often, it is the small, mundane acts that we do for the benefit of others, or the inconvenient annoyances we endure to meet the needs of people who depend on us, or simply those tasks we dislike, but that are required of our vocation or state in life. Catholics call this our “daily duty.”
According to another, older Pope Benedict (the XV, in this case): “Sanctity properly consists only in conformity to God’s will, expressed in a constant and exact fulfillment of the duties of our state in life.”
The duties of our state in life are dependent upon our particular vocation (priest, mother, father, teacher, student…) However, they are not just the requirements or responsibilities we must adhere to. Our daily duty grounds us, provides direction and focus for our days, and helps us grow in virtue. By carrying out our daily duties, we can know for certain that we are doing the will of God! So, yes, it matters if we wash the dishes and do the laundry. It matters that we perform our work to the best of our ability. It matters immensely if we set aside time for prayer. And for our students, showing up on time with a can-do attitude, and dressed accordingly matters a great deal!
Lent is a season that starts off in darkness and ends in new, life-giving light. The days become warmer, the light lasts longer, the sun works its magic, and the earth comes back to life. It is the perfect metaphor for the renewal that is possible for us if we choose to embrace our daily crosses, surrender to discomfort, and allow the transformative power of sacrificial love to guide us in dying to ourselves and rising with Christ in newness of spirit – refreshed, recommitted, stronger than ever.
During the time of year when we are most apt to want to shirk our duties, Lent comes to remind us who we are, what has been sacrificed for us, and what is being asked of us. There is more in our tanks! We are stronger than we think, and loved more than we could know by a Father who never shirks his duties toward us. - Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean