a weird but delightful lenten challenge

I have a friend, Mary, who has announced her intent to out-Catholic me this Lent. It’s a task, and not because I am an uber-Catholic. Oh, Lord, no, I am struggling there, taking every day a little at a time with the help of my friends.

No. This mission to out-Catholic me tickles me because my friend is Methodist (am I allowed to say that? oops).

Dear dear Mary — you already have a great name — what could you possibly be doing to out-Catholic me?

I proceeded to pull out my new favorite rosary, a birthday gift from a dear friend. “Look,” I said, beaming with joy, “it’s from Fatima. In Portugal!”

I was absolutely sure that I had her.

She took the rosary, still warm from my pocket, and held it in her hand, nodding her head in approval before returning it to me. I stared her down, letting the soft tinkle of the beads fill the room with the power of my assertion.

She didn’t miss a beat, this Mary, this woman whose grounded spirituality and love of liturgical music fills my days with smiles. She merely used her pencil to point to the small bulletin board on her office door:

A few years ago I met an old professor at the University of Notre Dame. Looking back on his long life of teaching, he said with a funny wrinkle in his eyes: “I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.”

That is the great conversion in our life: to recognize and believe that the many unexpected events are not just disturbing interruptions of our projects, but the way in which God molds our hearts and prepares us for his return. Our great temptations are boredom and bitterness. When our good plans are interrupted by poor weather, our well-organized careers by illness or bad luck, our peace of mind by inner turmoil, our hope by a constant changing of the guards, and our desire for immortality by real death, we are tempted to give in to a paralyzing boredome or to strike back in destructive bitterness. But when we believe that patience can make our expectations grow, then ‘fate’ can be converted into a vocation, wounds into a call for deeper understanding, and sadness into a birthplace for joy.

— from Out of Solitude by Henri J. Nouwen

Ah, Mary. We’re all together on this journey. I placed my rosary back in my pocket and went back to my office, smiling.