Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lenten stuff

I remember aged mother-in-law getting all huffy when family and local priest kept telling her she no longer needed to fast during Lent, she was exempt for being old and frail .

I’m not altogether sure all our urges to undertake Lenten penance are entirely wholesome, however everyone likes to feel they can do their bit and I remain to be convinced that telling anyone they are exempt in highly legalistic terms does any good either.

I’m reminded of this because of my own physical condition. I’m still awaiting a concrete diagnosis though the main culprit does appear to be my pancreas, and I do seem to be getting worse. Naturally, many are saying, Lenten observances should be overlooked in my condition.


Lent is about overcoming passions, emptying yourself to those things that usually drive you through the day but which ultimately are nothing more than distractions.

If I enjoy food and look forward to it , then I should moderate it.
If I enjoy fine wine and look forward to a glass, then I should cut it out.
If I enjoy a juicy novel and make time for them in my schedule, then I should use that time for something else: prayer.

The problem is sickness can leave a person entirely anhedonic. I think I’m in the desert permanently, pleasures are fleeting and random, the only thing that is habitual is phenomenal tiredness and mental exhaustion.

Is my state making me more holy? I doubt it. I am currently irritable, irrational, obsessive and bored. What this does mean is that it is also harder to grasp at anything spiritual unless it bombards all the senses or it is approached in utter quiet and solitude, I cannot cope with even the slightest distraction.

This is a very dry land indeed, this desert of sickness.

So what to do? For me, my Lenten journey will be perverse. It will be about seeking more joy in the wilderness and not about seeking less enjoyment.


Anagnostis said...

"Abba Poemen said, 'If three men meet, of whom the first fully preserves interior peace, and the second gives thanks to God in illness, and the third serves with a pure mind, these three are doing the same work" - Sayings of the Desert Fathers

God bless you, dear Rita. Praying for you.

Anonymous said...

I am sure Lent makes illness worse- or God allows it to be worse during Lent. It gives us a lot more to offer up.
I hope there is some oasis at Easter.
God bless

berenike said...

I knew a woman who was very sick through some fault with her pancreas, a scary hardheaded businesswoman who was sick for years. She found, through some young doctor, something that (when I last spoke to her it still was) appeared to make everything function. I wish I could remember what it was. Something called (quick google) Padma ?28. She's joined some hermits in the south of Italy now, but I was going to write to her at Easter and I'll ask about it, if you like.

(yes, I know, wacky MysticalEasternHerbs, but they appear to have worked here, and my cousin was cured of a knee problem so bad that after a couple of operations the doctors told her to look at wheelchairs, and her digestive tract was ruined by the drugs she had to take for the pain.)

Rita said...


A pancreas expert would be good, preferably someone not in the UK, someone somewhere else in the UK where scientific tests are still rigourous and not entirely based around cost.

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