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The Dog Days of Lent

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Feb 16, 2010

Having eaten, drunk, breathed and slept Vatican II for the past couple of weeks, it is time for a break. But if you’re like me and find yourself locked in Winter, what you really want is to experience God in another way, and not primarily an intellectual way. In the northern hemisphere, most of us wish in February for warm breezes and refreshing blue waters, for flowers and sun, for color and a nurturing exposure to the sheer variety of Creation. These are all tangible reminders of God’s ineffable love. We don’t have to think about them. We simply feel them.

But sometimes, in the vain yearning of it all, one grows depressed. Will Winter never end?

I have to admit that not all of us are so afflicted. Phil Lawler, for example, has the effrontery to find this same natural boost and relaxation in cross-country skiing. Now Phil’s okay in his peculiar way, but this is seriously unfair to the Rest of Us. Clearly, all normal people want to be out in shorts on a small sailboat. And while water skis might work for some, that compromise would satisfy neither Phil nor myself, and so must surely be heretical. What Phil finds in skiing silently amid grazing deer in the hills of New England, I find in sailing silently in the midst of dolphins on the Chesapeake Bay. Each of us in his own way—and hence the wisdom of the ages—suggests that Real Catholics Don’t Make Constant Noise.

Metaphorically correct, but I suspend the rule for the moment, because it’s Myself making the noise. Still, it may be fortunate that we have this in common, or who knows what might happen to the tone of discussion at CatholicCulture.org. I suppose some brazen soul might use Sound Off! to comment on the pleasures of his cigarette boat, his demuffled Mustang, or his chain-saw dirt bike or ATV, but that’s precisely why we don’t promise to post everything users submit. Modernism!

In any case, the real point here, and the only one that matters, is that I myself am in serious need of a change in season. Phil can hang on to his Winter a little longer if he likes. He did, after all, choose Massachusetts, and it is a particularly self-satisfying sign of God’s love when things Work Out According to Plan.

Except that they usually don’t. Take the great Winter of 2009-2010. Phil has generally lacked fresh snow for his skiing up North, while I have generally had nothing but snow separating me from God’s other natural gifts down South. Having established that when Phil and I want the same thing, it is God’s will that everyone should have it, I can only suppose that when we are both thwarted in our separate desires, it is God’s will that the whole world should be unhappy. There is a great lesson here, for one can hardly accuse God of being small-minded when He gauges His Providence for all by its impact on those who write for CatholicCulture.org.

I can’t really speak for Phil, of course, though he did once say that when we disagree with each other, the principle of non-contradiction is suspended—which makes things pretty safe. Be that as it may, I myself have always known my moods were God’s moods. When it is so patently clear that the happiness of the universe depends on oneself, why question the obvious?

Nonetheless, I state categorically that this painful February yearning must be brought to a close as soon as possible. And so I look to the calendar with hope and expectation. Aha, Fat Tuesday! Mardi Gras! Now there’s a day when we can stuff ourselves with God’s gifts and feel good about it. Unfortunately, Mardi Gras is also the day the Divine Groundhog appears, fails to find a trace of His shadow in those of us who are so eagerly awaiting Spring, and decides that there will be six more weeks of Winter.

We call it Lent. And for all it’s worth, we might as well be seeds stamped down into the ground, yearning for the Son.

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  • Posted by: jjen009 - Feb. 16, 2010 9:21 PM ET USA

    I sympathise. We in New Zealand are in late summer. That said, I confess I have always loved August - which is our February. It is still very cold - but the days are getting longer! The grip of winter cannot last forever! Jonquils and daffodils start to come out. It isn't spring yet - but the promise is now there. Sort of like Gaudete Sunday :-)

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