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Hallo again to all.

Lenten discipline.

Now there is a phrase that makes one feel solemn, and perhaps a little bit guilty, just through its utterance! Some people like to give up sweets or alcohol, some virtuously have social media 'fasts' where they don't participate in online communities one day a week during the Lenten season. We know people who subscribe to the 40 Bags in 40 Days de-cluttering challenge each year for Lent. Popular in many places is participating in an ecumenical Carbon Fast. This movement ranges the globe from Southern Africa, to the United States, to the UK, and other spots around the Communion as posted on the website of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network.

Others ascribe to the 'take on' over the 'give up' approach. We knew one very busy person who decided her Lenten discipline was to write and send a long and newsy pen-to-paper letter to a different person every day. The 40 people who received her hand-written missives in the post were delighted! Another decided to train for a 10-kilometer road race as a way to provide daily time for meditation while running to cleanse the body physical. One church we know is using the papal encyclical, Laudato Si, as the basis for its Lenten book read and discussion series. They posted a notice in the local paper, and members of the community are joining them in increasing numbers each week. A Sunday School matron of our acquaintance distributed to her parish a list of ways children could help neighbours and friends during Lent. The idea behind this scheme was to involve the entire family in conscientious contributions and hands-on activities that served others.

This year, our season of Lent is taking a different turn.

Just like many of our readers, members of our AO editorial staff have helped loved ones or friends through the process of moving out of a long-time family home and into a smaller, more easily maintained domicile. Usually the new place is nearer to grown children or has good medical services available to residents.

And, again like so many of you, our staff has experience with clearing out homes of those who have left this earthly life. Two years ago, just before Lent, we were mourning the passing of our dear friend and sister in the faith, Cynthia McFarland. After the choral requiem mass and interment, the AO editorial staff gathered in her home to start the process of figuring out what to do with her earthly possessions. That task is wending its way to completion, but we each treasure the mementos we have from Cynthia's household.

One of us is currently in the midst of helping with the relocation process of an older relation. Thirty-odd years ago, she and her husband had moved out of a large home in the middle of the United States into a simpler home in the desert Southwest. Much shedding of material possessions occurred during that relocation. And now, widowed for almost a decade, she is moving East to New England to be near her children. More divestment of personal items and household goods is necessary. Her five adult children are making visits, in turn, to help. The first team met the '40 bags in 40 days' de-cluttering minimum for the entire season in a single day with the over 40 bags of books that went to used book repositories and were donated elsewhere.

The next task for this family is to sort through the clothing and household goods. Almost all of this will be sold or donated to local charities. What slows down each person involved is coming across family pictures and heirlooms. What does one do with these special items? Emails fly, telephone lines hum, and pictures are posted in private online albums for group discussion and decision. The act of winnowing family detritus can be overwhelming until we acknowledge and confront the sentimental attachments different family members may have to a specific photograph, painting, or piece of porcelain. We are glad to report we are witnessing organic Lenten disciplines of the best sort:

  • Caring for someone beyond oneself,
  • Kindness towards each other,
  • Better communicating between siblings, and
  • Closer listening to each member of the group.

What a gift this Lenten season is becoming!

See you next week.

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21 February 2016

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