April 21, 2017

Not Heroic; Just A Parent

My son has special needs.  In particular, he has Trisomy 21 and Autism.  So, it's obvious to everyone around that he has special needs.  He's a great kid and we like him - even though many things are more difficult with him along, which he almost always is.  This is not one of those blog posts where I'll tell you how hard my life is or what you should never say to parents who have a child with special needs.  In fact, I can't think of a single occasion when people have been anything but nice to us when they see us struggle.  People are just so darn nice!

Maybe too nice, but I'm not going to complain about that!  I'm somewhat ambivalent when people - friends or strangers - make comments.  I know their aim is to encourage us.  And I let them.  Sometimes they treat him like any other kid, sometimes they appreciate the extra stuff that his issues present in our lives.  Either way, I do appreciate it.  I am aware that my responses are often as unsure as their comments sometimes are.  I like when someone recognizes that it can be challenging - and yet, I also like when they see him as just another kid.  He's both, after all.

But, in their kindness, it is not unusual for someone to turn to us and say, "You are heroic."  Now, that's where I have to draw the line!!  I'm tempted to believe that unwarranted compliment - but the truth is, I'm just being a parent.  Even if there are parents who, out of selfishness - or more likely fear, ignorance and bad advice - would reject their child because of extra needs, most parents who discover their child has a condition that needs extra care just step into the role naturally.

When your kid has a stomach bug, you take care of him or her.  And except for occasionally posting it on Facebook for the co-commiseration of your friends, you don't expect a medal for doing it.  It's part of the job.  Well, the same goes for my kid who has an extra set of needs.  He's my son and I love him.  I do what any parent would do.  And we all need continual encouragement while in the trenches of raising children.

He's not the only kid I've seen who requires extra work.  Some children who don't have his built-in set of difficulties provide their parents a run for their money.  Take two-year-olds for example!  Some kids are naturally more rambunctious.  Certain temperaments make some children more unpleasant to be around.  Some are simply, well, brats.  And we expect parents to step up to the plate and deal with what they have helped create.

Special needs of the kind my son deals with are becoming more and more common, but people who act the way he does are still (thank God) unusual.  And, that's why people comment at all.  We do have circumstances in our life that make things more difficult in a way that most of us would not choose.  And, because it's unusual, it can be hard for some to see that we're just parents dealing with and loving our son.  Just like they do and would.  I am aware that when someone says, "I don't know how you do it" they also mean, "I'm glad I don't have to do that."  Part of me wants to respond, "I wish I didn't either!" and part of me wants to point out that they would do it too, if one of their children needed extra care.

So, the next time you're tempted to say something encouraging to a parent with a challenging kid, go ahead! If it's me, I'll eat it up!  It may lead to lots of internal conversation and objections on my part - maybe even a blog post - but I appreciate it.  I appreciate knowing that I'm surrounded by kind and accepting people who may not know exactly the "right" thing to say.  There isn't really a right thing anyway.

Thank you for your words and prayers to help parents just doing our job feel like super-heroes.

April 18, 2017

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For . . . Jesus

Remember those bright summer days when you were a kid and the familiar jingle of music blasting through the neighborhood caught your attention?  You’d drop everything, ask your mom for money and start running or biking toward the source of the sound.  "The ice cream truck!  The ice cream truck!"  Icy cold refreshment was around the corner – literally!  

Well, when I was thinking how hard it can be for some of us to get to church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, I thought wouldn't it be great if we could have a Blessed Sacrament truck that drove around neighborhoods, bringing Jesus to the Faithful?  When hearing strains of “Oh Sacrament Most Holy” and “Tantum Ergo” or maybe church bells, all the Catholics would run out and wave down the driver!  Moms with a half dozen little children in tow, older folks with walkers, busy business folks working at home could quench their spiritual thirst.  In some neighborhoods, the loud-speaker might blast "Gather Us In" and "One Bread, One Body," but the results would be the same.  

I can think of nothing better for one's spiritual growth than time spent in quiet prayer, especially in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord.  And yet, piling little people into the car between meal times, nap schedules, household duties, and homeschooling, keeping them seated in the Adoration chapel without disturbing the regular adorers and being able to quiet one's mind enough to actually pray, is difficult to schedule in on a periodic, let alone regular, basis!  But the difficulty in achieving it does not diminish the desire to do it.  

Truly, this could work!  I have heard of a mobile confessional in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana.  In this Our Sunday Visitor article, Fr. Michael Champagne, the man behind the mobile confessional, is quoted saying, "During the Year of Mercy we want to bring the sacrament to areas where people otherwise might not be able to get to confession."  A mobile Adoration chapel would do the same!  If it were equipped with a priest as the driver, it could provide both!  It could travel to certain areas on a schedule that would allow people to have a regular adoration time, as well as stop to admit spur-of-the-moment adorers.  A small bus or large capacity van could easily be transformed with a tabernacle in the rear and seats turned around to face it.

Driving through towns and neighborhoods would not only bring the Blessed Sacrament to those who find it hard to get out, but the presence of Our Eucharistic Lord in some places, for possibly the first time ever, would certainly have unanticipated beneficial effects on those areas.  

I’m hoping this idea will take hold with someone “out there” who could make it a reality.  It may never happen in my neck of the woods, but there is surely some priest or bishop somewhere whose people need this idea.  It is my prayer that someone reading this might be inspired to offer the donation of a vehicle.  Maybe a religious community dedicated to missionary work or devotion to the Eucharist just might have what it takes to make this a reality!  If you think it’s an idea whose time has come, pass it along and say a prayer!

Who knows, we might soon be running out our doors at the jangle of Ave, Verum Corpus to spend a few minutes in the company of Emmanuel – God with us.

April 12, 2017

Wow Your Guests With A Paschal Butter Lamb - and Other Tips For An Easy Easter Celebration

When Easter rolls around, there's a lot to celebrate.  It's the biggest liturgical celebration of the year!  It is good news, indeed, that Christ became incarnate to make satisfaction for the curse of death brought on by man's sin and to restore us to true Life in God.  And, let's face it, after six weeks of some level of fasting and abstaining from the more celebratory aspects of life, we're ready for a feast.

I like to entertain to an extent.  What I don't like is for it to be hard.  No one will ever compare me to Martha Stewart - but many remember fun times at my home.  I have gleaned few tips over the years for enhancing the Paschal celebration with as little effort as possible.

In grad school, people thought of my house as a place of celebrations and concluded that I am a great hostess.  The fact is, I inherited a great house and great housemates when I moved in.  The house lent itself to parties because of it's size, layout, and history.  I had a responsibility to carry on the tradition.  All I had to do was invite the great people in and, voila!  Instant celebration!

Now that I have a family, I simply transferred the technique and picked up useful tactics along the way that spoke to me.  They mostly spoke to me about making it easy.  And that's what I'd like to share with you just in time to enhance your Easter feast with fun and as little effort as you can get away with.  Because, let's face it, if the life of the party (i.e. you) is exhausted from spending the day cooking and cleaning up, it will be less festive for everyone!

It therefor makes sense that the first step is to ensure there will be people you enjoy around you.  If your family is fun and like each other, then you needn't look any farther.  If this can't be counted on, better invite people.  Even the addition of one person will boost the atmosphere of festivity.

The next tip is to choose a cold menu.  Whether you attend the hours-long Easter Vigil Mass, a Sunrise Service or go to your normal Mass in the morning, you'll sleep in, go back to bed or return hungry respectively.  No one wants to have to cook or wait for the party to begin while strains of "He is Risen indeed!" still echo in your heads.  Think picnic foods!

We like to get a ham - spiral sliced makes it even easier!  Make salads ahead: egg salad, chicken salad, jello salad, whatever.  Olives and pickles offer picnic flair.  Have nice bread and special condiments of all sorts.  If you're inviting people, ask them to bring their favorite picnic dish.  Easter just shouts for cold dishes.  It's Spring!

Little details will transform your meal from a regular repast to a festive feast!  Make a butter lamb.  It's super easy.  You get a lamb-shaped chocolate mold, shove some softened butter in and refrigerate.  You could probably find a clay or wood mold at a swanky store for a fortune, but just get one of these cheap, plastic molds here on my Amazon Affiliate link!  This little guy will steal the show.  You might need to supply extra butter on the table because no one will want to dig into the Paschal Lamb, but assure them that if they eat his flesh, not only will they have his life in them, but he will not be diminished - because you can pop him back into the mold with more butter and he will be made new again!

Roll out the traditions!  Feast days are a time for tradition.  Do you do Easter baskets?  We sort of do, but simpler.  We do a family basket.  This is where all the chocolate will be found.  Also religious items like holy cards.  Easter is not a time when my children expect gifts, so I have kept this aspect small.  In fact, the Easter basket is largely a centerpiece and repository for chocolate.

An Easter basket at our house.

Color eggs, of course!  What's more festive than colored eggs for easter?!  I have seen totorials on-line for decorating eggs using salt, shaving cream, and silk.  You could learn the traditional Ukranian method of Pysanka - those intricatly painted eggs.  But, that wouldn't be easy.  Beautiful, but definitely not easy.  Besides, you can buy lovely wodden painted eggs and bring them out again year after year!  Color your eggs however you like - who am I to tell you what to do??  We use a few simple natural food dyes to make red and gold eggs.  Red (yellow onion skins), for Christ's blood, as I remember from Easter in Greece when I was a child.  That's the only color they have!  Gold (turmeric), for the liturgical color for the day.  That and my daughter asked if we could please do another color.  Last year we added blue becaused we got a chicken that laid light blue eggs and all I had to do is boil them!!!!  That sure made it easy!

Step up the festivity with fun.  Have an Easter Egg hunt!  I have seen all kinds and different families have their own traditions.  If you avoided egg hunts because it seems like too much work, just do a simple one!  Hide the eggs in one or two rooms in your house.  After the first hunt, the kids will probably take turns hiding them again and again for each other.  That takes care of them for a while!

Your egg hunt needn't be this big!

Have you ever heard of confetti eggs?  I remember these little treasures from when I lived in Greece.  They are emptied, colored eggs the purpose of which is to whack on someone's head letting fly a shower of confetti!  And I found them at the local Wallgreens!  They are labeled in Spanish as cascarones.
You can make your own if you like that sort of thing.  Make a hole in the end of the egg and empty the contents into a bowl (use for baking, or scrambing!).  Rinse and dry the eggs.  Dye them however you like and dry them again.  Fill with confetti and glue a square of tissue paper over the open end.  Ta da!  Or, you could just order some at an exorbitant price from Amazon, using my affiliate link here.

I have heard of people filling them with bird seed and doing them outdoors.  Well, I have no problem with breaking them indoors.  Sure there's confetti all over the floor - so what?  It's not like it's glitter.  It sweeps or vacuums up easily and I kind of like the festive look of confetti on the floor.  It reminds me for weeks that while Lent lasted forty days, Easter lasts for fifty!  Take that, Death!

One area I might put a little more effort into is dessert.  Since I'm not knocking myself out over every detail, I have the time energy to make a special dessert.  I love dessert.  And, after weeks without, I look forward to several varieties of deliciusness on our table!  It needn't be complicated, though.  It's okay to buy something from a bakery.  One of my favorite Easter guests does not consider it a feast if ice cream is not involved.  What could be easier than ice cream?  She will be invited again and again!  Oh, sure, you could make your own ice cream, but then you wouldn't have time to make this beauty!  It's all about priorities.

Lemon, Ricotta and Almond Flourless Cake from Cakelets and Doilies

I hope your celebration of the risen Christ brings life and joy to everyone in your home, however much or little effort you put into the details.  One last tip to add ease to the feast: prepare enough to last at least a few days into the Easter octave so you can take a few days off cooking!  Have a happy Easter!  Christ is indeed risen!

March 30, 2017

The Agony In the Playground

The playground isn’t my favorite place.

I haven’t always felt like this.  I used to love going there – when I was a kid.
The best was when my Uncle Don would take a bunch of the cousins.  He’s a big strong, fun man and playgrounds still had merry-go-rounds.  Well, just picture him pushing it at about 60 mph, kids hanging on for our lives, legs flying out, screams of delight (and fear).  Man, that was fun!

I also remember swinging as high as possible – hoping I wouldn’t actually go over the top – and then jumping at the zenith of the upswing.  Good times.  No bones broken.

On the way home through the neighborhood, Uncle Don would, at our request, shift the car into neutral and coast until the car ran out of momentum and came to a stop.  Then the kids would all jump out and push it home.  Those were the days!!

I don’t really remember playground times with my mom, but I’m sure there were some.  There must have been.  And I think I know why.

Well, since becoming a parent myself, time at the playground has lost some of its sparkle.  Okay, all of its sparkle.  It’s not even that busy-body mommy bloggers are berating my type on line for opting to watch my screen rather than my kids.  I don’t even have a smart phone.  But, yeah, I’ll talk on my flip phone if I can find a friend who happens to have time to escape her kids right then.  And, yes, knowing this discussion is out there does add a dose of guilt to an already loathsome activity.

What’s to like?  There are only so many pictures of happy kids with brightly colored plastic backgrounds you need at each age.  That moms take pictures of their kids at playgrounds is probably just another indication that everyone finds a playground an excruciating place to actually spend time.  If you’re not a kid.

It’s not that they’re too dangerous (though, I do have to watch to make sure they don’t do something that might result in death or injury), or not dangerous enough for proper development (see the above parenthetical comment).

Maybe it’s because I go there hoping for a few minutes of kid-bliss to give me time alone in my head – and then they say, “Mommy, look at me!” or worse, “Come or push me!”  I was really just hoping to be left alone for half an hour.  And I can’t shout, “Just leave me alone for a minute!” because it’s public and who knows if a busy-body mommy blogger is there (or one of her disciples)judging me. 

It could be that I don’t want to see another mommy there who is itching for adult company and feel obligated to engage in small talk – or, the alternative, mutually pretend you don’t see the other as our kids are becoming best friends.  No, that’s not awkward.

And then there’s the fact that I’m not in my twenties – or thirties, or forties – like all the other mommies of kids the age of my kids.  I’m old!  When you’re an old mommy, you’re supposed to be a trough of wisdom and good example, right?  But I’m not, because this is not my twelfth child.  I only have two.  No, I’m not her grandmother.  Leave me alone.

And when you have kids at the playground, one of them is going to need the bathroom.  You know how sanitary public bathrooms are in outdoor venues!  If there happens to be another mom in there, it’s a chorus of “Don’t tough anything!”

Someone’s going to be thirsty or hungry, too.

And it’s always too hot.  Or too cold.  Except when it’s really beautiful out.  There are those times too.  And those moments when your child is really, really happy just swinging.  The laughs at being pushed really high.  The smile because we're out somewhere that was made just for kids.

I suppose that’s why I still take them.  Mommies make sacrifices - big and small - for their children.  Now, if only their uncle lived locally enough to help them make enduring memories of the best kind of dangerous fun!

The reasons I go to the playground anyway!

March 18, 2017

I Didn't Realize They'd Be NAKED!!

While in college, I took a studio art course each semester just for enjoyment.  I don't have a lot of natural talent, but it appeals to my introspective side.  I generally followed two principles in selecting which course to enroll in.  First, I stuck with beginner level courses, which led to choosing a wide variety of methods and media.  Second, I learned early on only to sign up for classes that began after 9am (I am not a morning person).  This system led me to sample watercolor, screen printing, intaglio printing, design and other various various art techniques.

When I signed up for "Life Drawing," I looked forward to going out around the beautiful campus of UC Santa Barbara to take in the living scenery in this beach community.  The first classes entailed staying in and exploring light and shadow while drawing cubes and spheres arranged on a table central to all the students' easels.  The professor often referred to "when the models are here."  I was confused, curious and a tad disappointed.  Were we going to draw scenes from little models of buildings maybe?  Were we ever going to go outside and draw real landscapes?

Yes, I was a complete novice.

It slowly, very slowly dawned on me that the models were not going to be little buildings, but live people.  Models.  Ooooooh!  And it slowly, very slowly dawned on me, with a growing sense of dread and panic, that the models were not going to be wearing any clothes!

I was a "slow bloomer," shall we say (people often did).  Geeky, nerdy, whatever.  I was the kid who risked ridicule to change into my gym clothes in the bathroom, rather than in the open girls locker room, both in public junior high and in a Catholic girls high school.  You could call it natural modesty, some may call it prudery (probably those whose ridicule I was most likely to be risking would call it that).  I was just young, and shy and still maintained that sense of wanting privacy from everyone while changing clothes.  And I wanted the same for others.  I was not even from a home where people made a big deal about the virtues of modesty and purity.

Even by college, I was still mortified at the prospect of having fully naked people stand before me to be drawn.  But, what could I do??  I was enrolled in the class I needed the credits, the day of unveiling was approaching, and I did enjoy learning to draw.  I realized it was an opportunity to mature in the area of professionalism.  I don't mean I decided to become a professional artist.  I decided that the ability to look at the human body uncovered without undue embarrassment, discomfort or titillation was a skill that should come with growing up.

Painters and sculptors throughout the centuries have honed their talents while gazing on the human figure without lust creeping in.  Art connoisseurs and museum patrons by the hordes have appreciated the nude works of the masters without giggles and smirks.  I do not doubt these works have elicited snickers from adolescent museum guests through the years.  Generally, this is unsurprising when it occurs in children, but is considered immature and in bad form when an adult responds thus.

Michelangelo's L'Uomo Vitruvian

When the disrobing occurred in my class in the third week, I also learned that it is possible to sketch a body without focusing unduly on any details that did not warrant focus.  I was indeed relieved that I was able to rise to the occasion.  After all, life presents nakedness, and if I was going to be a grown-up, I was going to have to put on my big girl panties and get used to it.

We expect grown-ups to be able to see body parts that are usually hidden without animal passions taking over.  We expect grown-ups to know there is a time and a place for exposing them.  It does not benefit the medical professional or the patient if prudery or titillation enters into a doctor visit.  If I should happen to be on the scene of a disaster or extreme poverty, I don't want a person's nakedness to deter me from helping, lest my "modesty" or theirs be compromised.  In fact, my response of respect, rather than shock, can protect their modesty.

Likewise, of course, being seen naked is not the same as putting one's body unduly on display for the purpose of attracting interest.  Unduly, because, attracting a mate does inherently involve our body.  We smile, we dress ourselves in a manner we think is attractive, we stand a little closer.

And, of course, there are times when we must be comfortable being seen in a state of undress by someone we don't know intimately.  When I gave birth, I uncharacteristically did not care how uncovered I was before a roomful of total strangers.  It would not have been an easy job to complete if I had been very concerned!  Especially with my first child when my arrival in the delivery room was recorded as being eleven minutes prior to the time of birth of my baby!

Virgen de Belen by Marcellus Coffemans

That semester, in addition to marginally improving my drawing skill, I learned that sometimes modesty means not flaunting what you've got and sometimes it means not making a big deal about some of the incidental nakedness in life.

Maybe that's why they called the course "Life Drawing" and not "Drawing Naked People."

Here is a sketch from that Life Drawing class.

March 7, 2017

Why Dad Should Never Babysit the Kids

Dads should just never be asked to babysit the kids.

It's not because dad is not competent.  No, he's able to do all the things the kids require, even if he has to use the trial and error method to figure out what seems obvious to mom.

It's not because dad doesn't really want to spend time with the kids.  He loves them and will enjoy time with them - and they'll love that special time, too.

It's not because they won't have fun.  They'll have fun - and mom may come home to a disaster of Fun Mess.

It's not even because mom might return to a chorus of little comedians telling Dad Jokes (though this might be worthy of consideration).

The reason dads should never be asked to babysit has nothing to do with dads.  It's simply because it's the wrong word.  When the kids are left in the care of dad, it's called parenting.

It's babysitting when you ask someone else to look after your children, who doesn't have the inherent responsibility of caring for them that parents have.

This was drawn to my attention by my friend Janet over a dozen years ago when my eldest was a baby.  In response to my comment that my husband was babysitting, she quipped, "That's not babysitting; that's parenting."  And I've never forgotten!

Of course he's not babysitting!  It seems so obvious when you say it like that.  When dad walks out the door to work in the morning, no one thinks mom is just babysitting during the day until he comes home.  Parenting is a team sport.  They both took on the responsibility when they welcomed the children into existence within that family setting.  It's what makes the whole group of them a family.

There are a great many things that are much, much more difficult for single parents (whether they are widowed, separated from a spouse or unmarried) than for families where both parents are present together.  These parents can, of course, do a fantastic job of raising their children, but it takes a lot of support.  It's not the ideal.

When the family is intact (mother and father both in the home raising the kids) it's still hard to do some things.  If they both see the job of parenting as theirs together, not just the mom's, they will work together to see that the children are cared for and each parent is also able to do the things that help keep them functioning well.

When parents see the job of parenting as primarily mom's - dad being an occasional "babysitter" - mom's needs can be overlooked a bit.  Some things are just harder to do with a baby or several kids in tow.  How does a mom get real exercise, have prayer time, read a book, maintain friendships give blood or a myriad of other pursuits necessary to personal growth if she is literally never alone?

One small thing we can all do to support families is to just stop saying dad is "babysitting" when he's alone with the kids!

February 25, 2017

Why is Lent Forty Days?

Putting aside that the numbering is not exact, we generally talk about Lent being forty days.  Like me, you have probably wondered "why forty?"  What's so special about forty??  The obvious answer is that Our Lord spent forty days fasting in the desert before He began his public ministry.  He set apart that time to prepare Himself and as an example for us.  So, that's what we should do.

During this time He was tempted by the devil in three ways.  He ate nothing - nothing!! - for forty days!   But that wasn't more than our Savior could handle, of course.  Following His example, we enter the desert of Lent for forty days.  We fast - well, we give up chocolate, anyway.  We take on extra mortification, prayer and alms giving, leaning on His power to overcome the devil's temptations both during this penitential season and those that traipse behind us all the days of our life.

Jesus then went out!

He spent forty days alone and fasting and then He went out and made public what He was about.  He was about redeeming the world from the effect of original sin: spiritual death.  And His mission was to make possible a new birth for us.  We are made new by inserting ourselves into His mystery.  This is a daily conversion - and Lent is our yearly reminder to begin again.

But still, why did He choose forty days for His preparatory retreat?

We can again look farther back, to the Old Testament Israelites.  God laid patterns in human history in the story of His chosen people - that we follow in our own lives even today.  When Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt, they spent forty years in the desert en route to the promised land.

What the heck were they doing along the way???  It's not really that far!  I checked.  I'm not sure where they were coming from exactly, but from Egypt to Jerusalem - not even at the shortest distance - is about 270 miles.  I did the math and at a stroll pace of 20 minutes per mile, walking eight hours per day, taking off the whole weekend (even though weekends hadn't been invented yet), a person could traverse this distance in under two weeks.  So, even if they cut the walking time per day in half, prepared gourmet meals each night, stopped at every point of interest to gawk, and painted a giant group selfie with pigments naturally derived from the local desert plants and minerals, they should have been able to pull it off in a year, tops.  But forty years??

At the same pace, one could literally circumnavigate the Earth (24,901 miles) - on foot - ten times (assuming bridges or the ability to walk on water)!  

What took them so long?  It could be that they grew accustomed to doing things a certain way and couldn't envision arriving somewhere.  Maybe they found a comfortable place that they really liked, even though it wasn't where they were destined to be and was nowhere as good as their destination was for them.  Perhaps it seemed like too much trouble to tromp along with their families, belongings, livestock and that heavy ark of the covenant, so they settled for good enough.

None of these reasons would surprise me.  They are some of the same reasons we don't carry on in our journey of sanctification.  The history of salvation - from the Garden of Eden, through the people of Israel to the Mystery of Christ -, is a pattern the Father has shown us for sin and redemption.  What they did, we do.

Or, just maybe there is more hidden in Holy Scripture than theologians can uncover.

Maybe the specialist we need to interpret much of Scripture is a comedian - steeped in Jewish culture and proficient in Hebrew.  (I've always longed to hear the Bible read by an old Jewish guy from Brooklyn named Lenny.)  It's possible that the journey did not actually take forty years, but only seemed to, what with all the murmuring, grumbling and complaining.
"The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our kettles of meat and ate our fill of bread! But you have led us into this wilderness to make this whole assembly die of famine!”
 There is a lot of good material for the right kind of humorist here!

But I think it probably did take forty years.  Because there is another, more basic template for the number forty that goes back even before God's chosen people.  It goes all the way back to the garden - that first of the gardens where all the important stuff has happened - the Garden of Eden.  When Adam and Eve sinned through pride and disobedience the curses that came upon them along with spiritual death were to work to bring forth food and pain in childbirth.

Everything that followed has been an effort to get back into grace with God.  He has patiently taught us (often kicking and screaming) to trust Him and has given us the grace to finally do it.  Our Savior made the grace available; we must avail ourselves of it.  The real promised land is heaven.  To enter, we must be re-born in grace through faithful obedience to God's will.  This process of growing in sanctity is a period of gestation for our re-birth as a new creation in Christ.

As Lent is a preparation for celebrating New Life in Christ at Easter, it is also a time when we pray ardently for catechumens, who will be born again in baptism at the Easter Vigil Mass.  Our hope for ourselves is also a new start - to become new again.

Lent is a pregnancy for all this new life that Christ the Savior brings about in His Church.  And, pregnancy lasts forty weeks.  And that, I think, is the real reason that Lent is forty days.