Living on a corner along a popular jogging route, we see lots of people run by. Very few of them run alone. Most have companions during their daily exercise. Many of those who run alone have devices to monitor their run. In one week, on Ash Wednesday, we begin Lent. If we approach Ash Wednesday as the start of a period of spiritual exercise, perhaps we should consider the question; “am I planning to go it alone or with an exercise partner?”
Often we have partners to help us. Boy scouts and others use a “Buddy System” where no-one is off alone and AA promotes mentors and sponsors for those in recovery. There are other examples we encounter where working with others brings greater success than working alone. You might even look at the trinity as the ultimate buddy system. There’s a crew that can get things done.
During Lent we are encouraged to pray, fast and give alms as spiritual exercises designed to help us draw closer to Jesus. Ever find yourself days after Ash Wednesday trying to figure out what exactly you are doing for Lent? Ever end up at Holy week with your only claim to Lenten observance being fish on Fridays? It’s not that you don’t care, but you never got around to starting. Life gets in the way. Perhaps that is one of the gifts the Church gives us in the observances of Lent; it offers a pause from how the details of our daily life can get in the way of a deeper, more intimate, relationship with God.
Make this Lent different; get a spiritual exercise partner, a buddy, a mentor. Find someone to walk, run, jog (read, pray, reflect) with you on the journey of Lent. Consider planning your Lenten exercises with your spouse or a close friend or two. The runners that pass by our house run the same route, at the same time, with the same people, on the same days. Set that up for yourself.
Route: What will you and your exercise partner do together? Consider some form of spiritual reading together. When I say together, I don’t mean at the same time or in the same place, you can do this with an exercise partner miles apart. Anchor your exercise with the writings of a saint or some other inspirational material. The Lent and Easter Wisdom series offers a long list of saints and spiritual masters you could include in your exercise group. You could also use one of countless other resources, including the daily mass readings or an online three minute retreat. Your route could even have you and your exercise partner doing a different thing, reading a different book and sharing your individual discoveries as part of your time together.
Time: Figure our when and how you will connect with your spiritual exercise partner. Perhaps you will touch base daily, perhaps weekly, but have a plan. One of the beautiful things about technology today it that it may be possible to call across country with no long distance or you can email your thoughts, reflections, questions, pondering. Perhaps you could create a private Facebook page, just for you. The key step is to create a clear and specific time for your shared spiritual exercise.
Together, you and your exercise partner can encourage, challenge and hold each other up along the road through Lent to the splendor of Easter morning.
- Fulton Sheen
- G.K. Chesterton
- St. Benedict
- Henri Nouwen
- Pope John Paul II
- St. Ignatius of Loyola
- Thomas Merton
- St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi
- St. Alphonsus Liguori
- St. Vincent de Paul