Training for Discipleship, aka Lent


 “Catechumens will hear the word for three years.”

So says Hippolytus, Presbyter in Rome in the 3rd Century.   As time and circumstances evolved (Constantine being the major one), this training of the Catechumens was transferred to the whole of the Church in preparation for Easter (Pascha).  Lent is a time for us to diagnose the things in us that need to die.  Far from being a time of morbid preoccupation, this dying to self actually makes us more alive and more human.  If we are owned by food, or by the need for power, or the need to be the center of the world, what kind of people could we be if we laid those things aside and became what God desires in us, the attributes of Jesus–to be truly blessed.  From Matthew 5:

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
       4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
       5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
       6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
       7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
       8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
       9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
       10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

In a world of selfishness, greed, lust, and overindulging to meet needs, maybe more than ever we need Lent.

Louis versus Thomas Part 1

I have always been moved by the writings of Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk whose consecration name was ‘Mary Louis.’  As his autobiography the Seven Story Mountain depicts, he struggled through the death of his parents and grandparents, as well as through years of rebellion and sin before he was called by God to the the Gethsemani Trappist monastery in Kentucky.  There, he wrote many profound books on the spiritual life and found his heart’s true ‘home.’ 

Yet the struggles with desire did not end in the monastery.  At age 51, after being hospitalized with back problems, he met and fell in love with a nurse who he had a several month relationship with–ultimately physically intimate.  Certainly none of this is uncommon or even all that surprising.  Still, though he ended the relationship for the sake of his vows, did it taint his legacy?  Is there something disingenuous about not  persevering through to the end?

Part of me thinks so.  If he was so called to one thing, why did he turn to another so deeply? 

The other part of me wonders what his life and writings would have looked like had he traded the vows to monastic life for the vows of marriage.  Certainly most of us are called to the latter, though I am comforted in knowing that in our time of sexual freedom (more what I would call ‘laxity’), there are men and women out there still called to a life of celibacy.