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.