As our saintly pastor intoned the importance of practicing a “good Lent” in Mass recently I did a quick review of my past Lenten observances and their success/failure ratio. It didn’t take long to recognize the problem-my wife.
At the end of the first week of Lent, my pastor/spiritual director reviewed both my current plans and past issues with me, he suggested a new approach. Perhaps, he counseled, I should reconsider my commitments of impacting the world and target my childlike (perhaps he said childish) efforts a bit more domestically.
Now this sounded suspiciously like my wife had been in to see him prior to my arrival-a suspicion I have had before when both she and I attended reconciliation together- and she always insisted on going first.
I have secretly harbored the distinct impression that both her confession and her time with our joint spiritual director routinely included discussions about my being success-challenged. “Bless me father, for my husband has sinned” kind of thing. Not that there weren’t valid grounds for such conversations. I was hardly a “Lenten Poster Child” in domestic life. I frequently thought how much less time consuming and more honest it might be if she simply drew up my list.
Regardless, I found myself at the end of my spiritual direction session with some goals significantly altered from my global ambitions of converting the western world single- handedly. I must admit that “taking out the garbage without being asked” seemed a bit specific-amazingly clairvoyant really-as it was included on my daily Lenten discipline list. The other components of my “Lent List” were equally specific. Thoughts of St. Padre Pio and his ability to read hearts/minds emerged as I left my directors office. How did he know?
Perhaps such recommendations are part of every husband’s commitment during Lent and I was once again behind the Catholic curve on such matters. I always seem to be willing to do the BIG THING each year. Perhaps when scripture says that in marriage the “two become one” it means she should set my goals. Lord knows she has to live with my feeble attempts at daily sanctification.
I think my personal epiphany in all this was that I was totally unaware of the need to “assist” my loving spouse with a reciprocal set of suggestions. When I asked, my spiritual director simply looked at me and frowned.
It’s going to be a long Lent.