On the eve of Ash Wednesday ("Shrove Tuesday") a spiritual friend from the past called. The phone calls are rare here at Te Deum Hermitage, but this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit is close in touch within His Real Presence, as are the various spiritual friends dotted around this country and abroad.
The friend who happens to be wintering in warm climate mentioned finding a marvelous priest who said to write down a plan for Lent. Write out what are to be the penances, the spiritual goals, the aspects of dying to self daily, during Lent. She thought this would be something the hermit might do, as well.
While an idea, yes it is, unfortunately (or fortunately) St. Hildegard of Bingen has already befriended me in a soul-filled way and is giving marvelous thoughts and ideas during Lent. So no, I will not be writing out a plan of any sort other than, I suppose (as I mentioned to my earthly spiritual friend), mentally thinking the plan is whatever His Real Presence desires moment by moment.
So Ash Wednesday brought reflections on the Gospel reading of Mass the day before, and I wrote those reflections. The evening brought a phone conversation with the spiritual father, so many miles away. Did he think out or write out a plan for Lent?
No. But he was, in that present moment before we spoke, perusing flower bulb catalogs and making plans for what dahlias might grace the monastery gardens in a few short months. He said Lent will bring what the Lord wills, and then Easter will come, and in between now and then will be many surprises. God provides!
I mentioned to my spiritual father that the days come and go in much silence and solitude, prayerfully and peacefully (even though I had to persevere with the cabinet conundrum), and that last week I realized I had not actually used my voice for three or four days! And it was all right! It was even good! He laughed and said, "Well, you're a hermit--that is why! The Lord is making you into a real and very good hermit now!"
Of course, there is more to it than that, but he made his point. There has been growth since coming to this desert, in exile, and in hardship and strife of many types, levels, layers, and dimensions--spiritually and temporally.
Today when at Lowe's, Ruthie in the electric department shared that she'd been very ill the past week. She suffered edema and also sleep apnea, with her oxygen level so low her physician said she had some brain damage. She struggled with some memory, and it took us a bit of effort for each of us to figure out the bathroom lighting issues--which fixture globes were of the thin variety and which had thicker glass that will not so easily break.
She confided she nearly lost her job when she was out ill, for she had missed those days of work as well as other days, called out to do civic duty in a jury. I reminded her to think positively, and that we would pray that there is no lasting damage to her brain. Help is on the way with better sleep apnea equipment, thankfully.
Ruthie agreed to the positive outlook, for she said it is like the powers of darkness to try to upset her all the more and work against her when she is not feeling well. True, and I reminded her when I gave her a big hug near the cabinet department (my next stop), that it is Lent, after all! The Lord gave her quite an unexpected health cross to bear on Ash Wednesday. Thanks be to God, she is back at work!
So this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit's plan for Lent is to allow His Real Presence to present His personalized plan for me in every present moment. Rather than gloom and heavy thinking about what to do for Lent, there is an aspect of eagerness and joyful expectation as to what the Lord will unfold each day and night, hourly, by the minute--however He desires!
First thing this morning was a call from the young woman with whom I am reading about Hildegard of Bingen's visions (and life). She has a domestic issue that is rather immense and important in the status of her husband's work and her desire to move. She has tried to love where they have lived for 7 years now, and it is going to take courage and resolve to ask him to sacrifice for her now, and secure a job transfer.
So we talked it through, and we are praying, and this put-off for years decision is what the Lord has brought the couple for Lent. Time to make a decision for the wife's well-being and the children's schooling and activities.
Each moment, really--each thought, each contact when on a couple errands today--is whatever present moment Lenten lesson with which the Lord surprises me. There are the struggles, for sure--present moment ones.
The bathroom caulk I put in the corners of the tiled shower (silicone "gives" so better for corners than grout) is extra gummy. One of Rusty's parting pieces of advice was to use painter tape on either side of where I am caulking to create a clean line. But I did not heed that advice--not realizing just how gummy is bathroom caulk compared to easily wiped off trim caulk.
Tomorrow's daylight Lenten task is going to be to tediously use a razor blade to clean off the caulk residue--even from the little edges of grout lines where it oozed over. So humbling to have not heeded what advice I was given by a man who knew from experience.
Ah, Lent. This momentary, personalized, Lenten unfolding by His Real Presence is far better than any conceived, considered, spoken, or written plan that this hermit could have ever devised.
Cheers to Lent--suffering included!