What To Do When You Totally Missed Lent

by Ryan O'Hara

Two years ago I missed Lent. Like my 8-year-old baseball playing self I watched Lent go by like three fastballs right down the middle. I struck out looking.

Ash Wednesday comes and goes. Nothin.

First and second weeks of Lent. Nada.

Third, fourth, and fifth weeks of Lent. Zilch.

Palm Sunday. Heart still frozen. I missed it.

What I mean by ‘missed Lent’ is that over the course of 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter I didn’t make an inward turn towards God. Sure, on the outside, I might’ve deleted Facebook and Twitter on my phone, and tried to limit my time online each day, but for those forty days nothing on the inside was different. Nothing changed about my attitude or disposition towards God.

Spiritual Cruise Control

I wish I had a good excuse.  I even have a non-Catholic friend who calls to wish me “Happy Ash Wednesday!” I just didn’t stop long enough to make a plan. Life was moving pretty fast (which isn’t novel these days for anybody) and nothing, not even the cultural inertia of Lent that surrounds me, the Catholic missionary, could slow me down or wake me up.  I was on spiritual cruise control.

So there I was on Easter Sunday eating Peeps, thinking back on the fact that I just watched Lent pass me by and the thought hit me: “I missed Lent, but I am not going to miss Easter.”  

So right then and there I resolved to make a change.

Layman's Holy Hour

For every day of the Easter Season (50 days) I would go to daily mass followed by 30 minutes of prayer, what Bishop Fulton Sheen calls the “layman’s holy hour.”  These were game-changing days for me.  As I look back on my journal from that time it is incredible to see the difference between the number and quality of entries (if you will) during those 50 days and the scant few entries I made during Lent that same year.

Whether you decide to make a turn towards God well before Ash Wednesday or you miss Lent altogether like me, making the turn is what matters.  ”Rend your heart, not your garments” says the prophet Joel. And even though I ‘missed Lent’, I didn’t end up really missing it, I was just 40 days late.

Have you totally missed Lent? If so, what can you do about it?  It’s never too late to make a turn.