Our director of vocation ministry, Fr. Steve Dos Santos, C.PP.S., offers these insights about having a meaningful Lent:
So I was preparing a talk recently for a group of high school youth, and I shared with them a story from the beginning of my second year of formation. As I sat down with my formation director, Fr. Greg Comella, C.PP.S., to begin the year, he laid out some goals and objectives for me. A couple of them in particular seemed challenging, and I went into defensive mode. I asked him to clarify for me how we would know if I’d achieved these goals.
His response has stuck with me to this day and is an important thing to remember not just for our men in formation, but for every one of us as Christians, especially as we journey through Lent. Fr. Greg told me that these goals aren’t about simply checking off a couple of boxes, but about my personal growth. The things he was asking me to do were about me becoming, if I may borrow a phrase from Matthew Kelley, “the best version of myself;” they were about my growth in holiness.
We are busy people, and it is easy for us to get into a to-do list mindset. But the spiritual life is not a check list. Each of us is on a journey to grow in holiness. Each of us has things we need to lay down and challenges we need to take up. This is a counter cultural idea. Contemporary society would have us pretend to be perfect. To focus on only our best self. Our faith, on the other hand, encourages us to look honestly at ourselves and find where the Lord is calling us to grow.
As a vocations director, when I sit with a discerner I try to listen for some of the ways he might need to grow. Not because we need to focus on the negative but because once someone enters formation, it is our responsibility to help those young men grow in these areas. We do this, not just for the sake of “due diligence,” but because we desire to help these young men grow into holier men and great Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
The early days of Lent are often filled with conversations and questions about “what does or doesn’t count” and “what is or isn’t allowed.” It’s important to know the rules. But it’s more important to understand the why behind them. Lobster is allowed, but is it really a penance?
Lent, and life, is a journey. Every day we take steps to grow in our relationship with the Lord. We learn to set aside old ways that draw us away from God. And we strive to become a new creation so as to better serve God and neighbor.
The lesson of that challenging conversation, and the lesson of every Lent, is that we are works in progress. The Lord isn’t finished with us yet, and we still have work to do. May this season of Lent be a time in which each of us grows in holiness. May each of us respond to the Lord’s call to growth, not with the fear of a second-year seminarian, but the courage of the saint we are called to become.