By Alyssa Bormes
I don’t think anyone has every accused me of being an ascetic. The closest I can come to the life of self-denial is perhaps… well – I can’t think of anything. So Lent is not my easiest season; I much prefer excess. A few times over the years, just in order to get through it, I’ve cheated, and not just for a part of Lent – but for the whole thing. And – I’m going to try to convince you to cheat as well!
Before you begin Lent you need a few things: note cards, stamps, a name, and an address. Then, let the cheating begin!
Oh – you need to decide on your sacrifices and added prayers, and all the regular stuff. Plus, pick someone for whom you would like to dedicate your Lent. Then on Ash Wednesday evening, get your first note card and write to that person. Tell her what you did that day, maybe a little something about what you learned at Mass, how you did on your sacrifices – especially fasting for Ash Wednesday, if you were tempted or not, and how you overcame the temptation by offering it for her. Then, address the envelope, stamp it, and throw it in the mailbox on the way to work on Thursday.
On Thursday evening do the same thing, and again on Friday, and Saturday, and everyday, Sundays included. It seems like Easter, or Easter Monday is a reasonable day to stop.
I have done this over the years – for my brother, for a nephew, and for a few other people. I’ve told them about Mass, about Adoration, about Stations, about overcoming temptations on their behalf, and even about things like interesting conversations at the Friday Fish Fry.
The letters were always a bit formulaic. I’ll give you an example of the type of note I sent to my brother each day.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Then I might mention something that stuck with me from Mass, and perhaps how later in the day I resisted having a coke by offering the small sacrifice for him.
Then the letter finished with: May this Lent be my love letter to you.
I suppose the first note was nice – but then they kept coming. He did tell me that there were days when multiple notes came at once, but he couldn’t open them all, instead he savored them over days. I was humbled.
“Wait a minute! I’ve read this far into the article and you haven’t mentioned how to get out of Lent.”
Oh – don’t think I don’t hear you – it’s just that maybe you didn’t hear me. I didn’t say I would get you out of the sacrifices and extra prayers and such. I said I would teach you to cheat, and offering your whole Lent for one other person is exactly the way to do it.
Now, you have a few days. Who will receive your Lenten offerings? Who will receive your letters? Get the stamps and stationery, and get going on Wednesday.
A Lent full of letters makes the season one of gratitude. It makes prayer, fasting, and almsgiving a joy. It showers the receiver with daily reminders of love, and a shower of love is just the sort of extravagance that makes all the little moments of asceticism possible.
About the author:
Alyssa Bormes is an educator, author, speaker, and retreat leader. She currently teaches at the Chesterton Academy in Edina, Minnesota, writes for the Catholic Spirit, and the W.I.N.E blog, is the host of a weekly show,“Christian Witnesses in the Church,” on Radio Maria US, and is the author of The Catechism of Hockey. You can find her at alyssabormes.com.