Sunday, February 10, 2008

Addition and Subtraction

Every year at Lent, I have struggled with what to give up. One year it was music, but that was kind of hard as I was living with other people who constantly had radios going and cds. One year, it was caffeine. I lasted six days with a headache I wouldn't want anyone to go through.

Every year growing up, we discussed what we would give up. And even non-Catholics would ask, "so what are you giving up for lent this year?" And I guess that if anyone had a certain holier than though air about not having to give things up, I would console myself that I was on the path to heaven because I knew about sacrifice. I didn't expect this year to be any different.

This past Ash Wednesday, I arranged for an extra hour off at my lunch and went to mass to get my ashes.

Our priest, Father Bob, is a great and sometimes funny homilist. In his homily, he talked of lent as a time of either addition or subtraction. Wait, was that addition I heard as well as subtraction? It was. He described that for some lent was a time for giving things up. But for others, it was a time of adding something to their lives to bring them closer to God. In all my 28 years of being alive and Catholic, I'd never heard of this. He also urged us not to try to do too much or we would fail. This, he said, after all was only going to be six weeks.

So, I opted to add the rosary daily. Specifically the sorrowful mysteries. And the reason for that goes back a few years. Five years ago, shortly after my wedding, the US invaded Iraq. It was Lent. We all remember hearing about the army convoy that was ambushed and we looked on in horror as the American POWs included a woman named Shoshana Johnson. I heard her giving her name over the radio to the Iraqis and my heart seized in fear for her. I heard a voice say, get your rosary and pray, the sorrowful mysteries. I didn't question, I just did. And did every day until I heard of her release when Marines liberated her and her comrades.

Months passed and then I saw an interview on television with the POWs. In the interview, Shana Johnson talked about how when her mother was alerted to her capture she told reporters, "I hope she had her rosary with her." Shana didn't have her rosary. But back in NC, I had mine. And I honestly believe that helped her in some way gain her freedom and face very little mistreatment at the hands of the Iraqis.

So this Lent, for all those around the world who are suffering in some way, I offer up my rosary that their suffering might be lessened. And that by this addition in my life, more than just my life will be enriched.

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