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When your Lenten sacrifice is chosen for you


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Sarah Robsdottir - published on 03/02/21

Knee surgery, a colicky baby -- your cross isn't going anywhere. Ask for help to carry it bravely.  

I had a conversation with an elderly neighbor the other day. She was wincing in pain, talking about how desperately she needs a knee replacement; how none of her medications work anymore. A little while later, the subject of Lent came up.

“Oh Lent …” she said guiltily, “I keep meaning to give something up — chocolate or TV — but (she rubbed her knee) I’m just so distracted.”

“How about giving up pain-free knees?” I said wryly, and she laughed aloud, because she understands my horrible sense of humor.

That being said, I wasn’t joking; not a bit. My neighbor’s situation reminded me acutely of the Lent in which I’d given birth to my fourth child (that made 4 boys in 5 years). Oh, and this baby opted for a month-long NICU stay, so I had to find a way to care for his three brothers (ages 2, 3 and 5) while driving two hours round trip each day to deliver freshly-pumped breast milk. I remember venting to my confessor:

“Not only do I not want to give up anything this Lent, I need extra chocolate and Netflix to stay sane!”


To my surprise, this wise old owl raised an imaginary glass in agreement. He did, however, encourage me to “embrace this trial bravely, with as little complaining as possible.” (Ouch.)

My confessor’s wisdom reminded me of the time Pope Benedict XVI shepherded us in a similar way: “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it, and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.”

One of the founding members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York City, Fr. Benedict Groeschel, had much wisdom to share on suffering too. He once said:

[If] people could choose the crosses that they bear in this life, they would end up [in hindsight] choosing the ones they were given. I never would have chosen this cross. But now that I have been given it, I will carry it.

And by God’s grace, we’ll carry our crosses, too.

Read more:
This is the pope’s recommended Lenten fast

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