Posted by: Peadar Ban | February 15, 2010

The First Sunday of The Rest of My Life

I am thinking today of what to do for Lent, and I can’t help thinking that I’ve been thinking about this subject for almost as long as I can remember thinking; that’s an awfully long time.  I remember, for instance, the Spiritual Bouquets, those promises I made to Our Lady to pray her rosary, and to Her Son, to be as good as he was at home; those vows I made to discipline myself, avoiding candy, cartoons and movies, and going to Confession every week.

Later on, an older fellow, I attempted what I thought a more mature approach to the whole exercise; adding Spiritual Reading and Meditation, piling on fasting and “mortification of the flesh”, such a saintly and heroic undertaking, in the form of humiliations, whatever they were supposed to be.  All for the purpose of becoming, well, becoming a Good Catholic, or so I thought.   Being a good Catholic; more importantly being known as a Good Catholic was a worthwhile goal, I thought.

Most of these things lasted until the first Three Musketeers bar came my way, and I decided, somewhere deep inside, that it was really all right to cut myself a little slack.  In my twenties, a young man on my own, I used to say that I had given up “giving up” things for Lent on the increasingly rare occasions when I was asked.  Down on that deep level I just referenced I had probably allowed myself to reach the conclusion that it really didn’t matter, anyway.  This was back in the ’60’s after all, when the best advice one got was to “turn on, tune in and drop out.”

Not that I did, but, it was a strong tide; if anything stronger today, and swimming with it, or just treading water while being carried along is soooo much less trouble.  Especially, I began to like the sense that since I had not “dropped out”, so to speak, that I was swimming upstream; swimming easily, stroking steadily.   Such are the subtleties of self deception.

It has been occurring to me that there was something wrong with all of those early and later efforts.  They all involved “Me” in my sure and steady progress to perfection, growing ever stronger, ever better;  the work of “Me” so that “I” could be perfect.  Jesus, who was he?  Salvation, what was that?

And then, today, just an hour or so ago,  I came across something which seemed perfectly to fit the space made for the answer I was attempting to give myself.  A friend of mine wrote it to someone who says there is no such thing as God, and believes that we can be the “best we can be”, all on our own.  The more I think about my friend’s answer, the more I think that all of those pious practices were not at all anything but preenings in front of the mirror.  What I was perfecting were those same subtleties I mentioned above.

My friend wrote: “If you want to see God, make yourself very small.  He respects your freedom. If you block the door of your little cabin, He won’t come in. The smaller, the humbler, the more needy, the better.”

I expect that is the right way to define “lifelong conversion.”  On this, the first Sunday of the rest of my life, I will begin to try to take that advice.


  1. thanks Peter…….tiny as a babe in our Mothers arms. sweet image to begin lent with and the First Sunday of the rest of my life too.

    • You are welcome, Joan. Some day you should meet the fellow who gave me the quote. He knows about Mother’s arms.

  2. Chesterton wrote: There is no such thing as a good Catholic. e are just Catholics, trying to be good.

  3. That’ll do, Peter, that’ll do.

    “Getting small” reminds me of the Old Testament prophet whisked away on a long journey to a high mountain cave. There he beheld a fierce windstorm, a ferocious firestorm and a fearsome earthquake. “But God was not in the wind,” or the firestorm, or the earthquake the Book tells us. And then, “a still, small voice” spoke to the old man.

    That’s how God speaks to us. In a “still, small voice” directly t our hearts, by-passing the brain.

    We *do* have to get “small enough” to hear Him, I believe.

    • Elijah was the one, if memory serves. He spent a lot of time on mountains, I think, didn’t he; appearing on top of tabor with two other guys. Perhaps it was a New Testament version of the Three Tenors? I’m feeling silly…


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