"A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day overwhelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the altar in a church, and meditated within himself, saying, 'Oh! if I but knew that I should still persevere,' and presently heard within him a voice from God, 'And if thou didst know it, what wouldst thou do? Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou shalt be very secure.' And straightway being comforted and strengthened, he committed himself to the will of God and the perturbation of spirit ceased, neither had he a mind any more to search curiously to know what should befall him hereafter, but studied rather to inquire what was the good and acceptable will of God, for the beginning and perfecting of every good work." The Imitation of Christ, Of the Zealous Amendment of our whole lives.
It is a fair assumption with Ash Wednesday being upon us tomorrow that many if not all of our readers have already figured out what penances, mortifications, and spiritual exercises they intend to do during Holy Lent. Whatever additional burdens you have chosen for yourself to expiate your sins, I think it is a worthwhile endeavor to examine every part of our day and ask "is this work perfect?"
The thought of perfection is enough to make most of us shudder. Whether considered from strictly a technical point of view (perfecting the action) or an interior point of view (perfecting the intention) our fallen natures and weak bodies resist the discipline under which we put ourselves.
If it was not so sad, it would be laughable that so many people in the devout Catholic subculture are so worried and guarded today about fasting too much. Those people who observe a technical rigor with their lent are scorned, as if a person was incapable of fasting strictly and overcoming sin at the same time.
I admit there is a danger in such a thing, though I am not sure how frequently anyone actually approaches that danger today. Yet it is a pitiable thing that we toss out the treasure we might store up in the kingdom during Lent with our meager penances by still allowing ourselves many sins and imperfections.
The Fathers (who kept and preached rigorous fasts) also saw the absurdity of giving up food only to endure in vices. "Fasting consists not in abstinence from food [only], but in a separation from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast ? Give me proof of it by thy works." St. John Chrysostom, On Fasting, Homilies of the Fathers for Lent.
If I could extend a challenge to you for this Lent, I would suggest that you work on perfecting every good work. What do I mean? I mean the pursuing in your Lenten observance - side by side with your penance - of a pure intention in the execution of your duties (i.e. those which are given to you by your state of life). For workers that means diligence in labor, for children attention at study, etc. To sanctify those daily moments, those places where we are forced to spend so much time, and to focus on redeeming it rather than waiting for holiness to happen. In other words, sanctify your "trips in the car".
How can we sanctify our trips in the car? We must fill our cars with the Spirit of God. Pray the Rosary, listen (or sing along) to holy music, listen to Catholic audio-books and the such like. For the perfect, perhaps sitting in silence, focusing on the presence of God. Do these things in addition to the prayers you already say, and the reading you already do. It would be going backwards to go from praying your Rosary on your knees to praying it just in the car; but, it is redeeming the time to go from listening to the radio, to listening to St. Augustine. This does not mean that listening to music is bad, but that we choose something better and more pleasing to God.
Whatever you do, don't try it because you think it is too easy. People today are more likely to cease being your friend if you insult their favorite band than if you insult their religion. Our cars are oftentimes quite comfortable, people carefully select their music, and time in the car can be quite pleasant. It may be easy to fully give car time to God once in a while, but what about every day?
"Now shalt thou labor a little, and thou shalt find great rest, yea everlasting joy. If thou shalt remain faithful and zealous in labor, doubt not that God shall be faithful and bountiful in rewarding thee." Imitation of Christ
This Lent Alleluia Audiobooks (possibly for a very limited time depending on how things go) is offering to send a 6 volume set of the Homilies of the Fathers for Lent playable on any CD player (and of course free to download) to those who ask, more details are available here.
You can also check out our last years Catholic Audio Resources for Lent