By: Sister Marie-Aimee, O.C.D.
When I was a freshman in college, long before I knew the Carmelites, I decided to give up music for Lent with the intention of making myself more available for prayer. It was the hardest Lent I ever experienced. It was the best too. I emerged at Easter with an appreciation for silence, with a greater desire to listen to Him, and with a detachment from music that stayed with me. I continued to enjoy music but I no longer needed it.
That Lent has served as a benchmark for me, a reminder of what Lent is supposed to be, a time to let something go so that I can get a better hold on Him. My experience of Lent in Carmel has been a deepening and enriching of that first experience. Carmel is about prayer, about our relationship with God who is dwelling within our heart. Our whole life is leading us to prayer or flowing from our prayer and it is crucial that we guard our hearts from losing that focus. In a sense, you could say that we are living a mini-Lent all year round.
However, the liturgical season of Lent, which we enter into with the whole Church, provides the opportunity for us to look within and see if there is anything specific that we need to let go of so we can be freer for Him. Sometimes it is a “want” masquerading as a “need.” Other times it may be something we “own” that is really owning us. It might be a way of seeing or acting that is holding us back from belonging more completely to Him. For Lent in Carmel we always practice exterior penances as a community, like giving up desserts or fasting, but we also encourage one another to allow our Lord to show us what needs to happen within, so that we can emerge at Easter with a deeper love for Him, a greater appreciation for our Sisters, and a renewed commitment to follow Him in Carmel.
What do you need to let go of this Lent? How is our Lord inviting you to draw nearer to Him? May this Lent help all of us remember that we are in the holy presence of the God who loves us.