The Lenten season can trigger some rather negative images and thoughts, if allowed. After all, who normally is upbeat about cutting out or reducing sweets, entertainment and other self-indulgent goodies? One can feel quite the martyr! However, Lent can be upbeat if we consider it a time to come closer to God through a freedom from things—especially self-will. St. John Vianney, a parish priest in 19th century France, put it succinctly: “God does not require of us the martyrdom of the body; He requires only the martyrdom of the heart and the will.” Perhaps we can say some kind words to a person we don’t particularly like, smile at someone who looks or sounds unhappy, refrain from a sharp response to a grievance—all actions which do not come easily. Some commentators refer to this behavior as “white martyrdom”—and let us pray that God helps us achieve it.
By Carol Berg, OSB