|All photos © Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda,|
the Camino de Santiago, 2003
I really enjoyed the opportunity during this Lent to ponder and expand on a topic I wrote a few years ago for the New York Times section, "Room for Debate." The original question I was asked was, "What is the Purpose of Lent?"
When I was invited to write a reflection on Lent or a particular Lenten practice for the North Texas Catholic Newsmagazine this year, I used that previous discussion as a spark to reflect further, specifically, on fasting...
Here's what I came up with:
Ten years after my friend Pat and I walked 350 miles of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across northern Spain, we sat at her dining table and laughed about the vigorous women we were then — and how much our lives had changed.
Pat was battling brain cancer, and I was learning to function with a chronic autoimmune condition. Exactly one week after marking the 10th anniversary of our arrival at the holy city of Santiago de Compostela, Pat completed her earthly pilgrimage.
During that last year of her life, as I walked with Pat through her chemo, then radiation, and then finally facing her impending death, we used to talk about and ponder how the physical trials of our daily life mirrored the struggles and challenges we went through on the Camino.
In truth, however, it’s the other way around. Our Camino pilgrimage was — and is — a metaphor for our lives: I can’t anticipate what struggles today will bring, but anything is doable one step at a time; Every uphill has a downhill; Hardships become manageable with a friend; Every single thing that I carry weighs me down, so I must choose wisely what is in my backpack. And accepting that there will always be hardships and trials in our daily walk is the path to, ultimately, learn to notice the unexpected blessings along the way.
In our culture, however, things like pain, suffering, worries, difficulties, grieving, are all things to conquer — and above all — to anesthetize as quickly as possible. Each of us becomes an addict looking for a quick fix. Drugs. Food. Exercise. Sex. Alcohol. Shopping. Television. Disposable relationships. Whatever it takes in order to not feel bad, sad, or hurt.
Lent offers me a unique opportunity in my quest to open my heart without reservation to what God wants to give me each day. I fast to get out of my comfort zone. But mainly I fast as a continuation of my pilgrimage, out of my desire to become deliberate in my daily living.
CLICK HERE to read the rest of my reflection in the North Texas Catholic.