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All Good Things
March 4, 2024

Lent: Spring Training for Catholics

“St. Francis was always new, always fresh, always beginning again.”¹

"Lent is spiritual spring training — we get the flab out, we get the sins out," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan in 2012 after the Ash Wednesday rite at St. Patrick's Cathedral. "Our fight is not against the Red Sox or the Cardinals; it's against Satan and sin and selfishness."

Just as spring training prepares the major league baseball player for the challenges of the new season, Lent, the spring renewal of our Christianity, prepares us for the challenges of our spiritual lives. It is with simplicity that the Gospel of Mark presents the testing of the Lord in just two verses on the first Sunday of Lent. The Spirit sends Jesus to the desert for forty days. Jesus is put to the test. We do not find the three temptations of changing a rock to bread, or jumping off the parapet of the Temple safely, or receiving the power of the world which we read in Matthew and Luke. The temptations were not important to Mark. For Mark the only thing that matters is that the Lord was strengthened by this test and then was ready to proclaim his Father’s Kingdom. As we pray during Lent and relate the forty days the Lord spent in the desert to the forty days of Lent, we also can relate tests that we have had or may still have in our lives. Spiritually, we are ready for the curve balls that life throws at us. We have confidence in ourselves, and more important, confidence in the Lord who is preparing us to do battle for Him.

St. Francis encouraged his followers to live lives of conversion. This is our Spring Training! This is a time when we embrace special spiritual exercises and disciplines, which strengthen us for the rigorous challenge of conversion. It may encompass major steps in our life with God or smaller everyday steps that slowly draw us to our eternal destiny. Lent allows us time to focus on the need for conversion, constant conversion.

“Human frailty makes it necessary that this conversion be carried out daily.”² We may have defining moments in our life of faith but need to augment these with the many lesser moments that keep us on the proper path. Fasting and abstaining from meat can remind us of the need to depend on God, as well as connect us to those who go daily without these basic necessities. Giving our time, treasure, and talent to someone, especially the poor, expands our world to all God’s people and helps us better love God and others. Spending extra time in prayer makes the Lenten experience quite personal and draws us even deeper into our life with God.

One of the best elements of Lent is the way it instills hope. All thirty teams come out of spring training with the hope that this is the year they will get to the World Series. The same sense of hope permeates the season of Lent. “There always is a sense that dedication to the discipline and penance of the ‘daily grind’ of Lent will lead toward the promise of the Resurrection – the ultimate victory over sin and death and the 'championship trophy' of Eternal Life.”³

Like St. Francis, let us strive each day during Lent to make ourselves new, make ourselves fresh and begin again.

Chris Leone, OFS, SFC '73
Minister, Our Lady of the Angels Region
Secular Franciscan Order

Spring Training

¹ Thomas of Celano, “First Life of St. Francis,” in Marion Habig, St. Francis of Assisi: Omnibus of Sources (Cincinnati: Franciscan Media, 2009), 118.
² The Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order, Article 7.
³ Most Reverend Jeffrey Haines, Auxiliary Bishop, Archdiocese of Milwaukee, 2019.

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