Penance for a Broken Heart

“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.” (Joel 2:12-13)

In this season of fasting and penance, I am challenging myself to look beyond the external penance that I usually take on. Sure, I’ll take on the usual material penance, but that penance is a reminder for myself. What God really asks me to do is to rend my heart. He wants me to lean into the fissures deep within myself and to let Him into those most secret places. As I remember Jesus’ wounds throughout this season, I’m offered the gift to share my wounds back as well.

Our penance this season should help us move outside ourselves, to identify with others and with Christ in new ways, rather than creating new stress and pressure to run some kind of Lenten marathon with a winner at the end. No, Lent is a season that allows us to recognize our brokenness and be healed, fully and completely by our loving Savior.

God is asking for us to return to Him this Lent. Our best offerings are the very hearts He Himself set within us. He wants those hearts back. He will heal us. He wants us back. He doesn’t want my chocolate or your Dr. Pepper. Those are our reminders. He wants us to return to Him, hearts in our hands, sharing our joy, our love, our sorrow, our brokenness. Everything that we are pondering, holding within, regardless of its beauty or ugliness. He wants it all.

Ready to give that whole heart back? Make a good confession, get to Mass, and face this Lent with your heart in hands, ready to give it over to Him who wants you most deeply.

Brigid Hogan is a high school English and ESL teacher who lives in northeast DC. She is passionate about Catholic social teaching and tries to live it out daily in her relationships and community. Most of her pleasures are guilty ones like television, burritos, and Twitter. Find out more about her here.


  • Reply
    Sarah Johnson
    February 14, 2018 at 8:23 am

    As I was reading this, I was thinking about how far in advance the BIS gals write their mediations. I then was thinking about today’s being Ash Wednesday and about what I am doing for Lent. What? Lent? That’s today! It doesn’t start tomorrow…
    I am getting to Mass this AM but I will have to find a time in everything else I have planned to get to the readings and mediations I want to do in Lent so I can start my Lent on the First Day of Lent. The readings and mediating aren’t hard; the Lenten Offering will be dropping one of the scheduled activities. Now that I am retired, I only have scheduled things I like to do. I will offer one of those things today so I can get my heart rent.

  • Reply
    Kristin Fontana
    February 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for a wonderful reflection. Just FYI, the only reading I can see is the first reading for some reason. (For others looking, the other readings can be found on usccb.org).

  • Reply
    February 14, 2018 at 11:42 am

    I thought for sure the author was from Texas as she said ‘God doesn’t want your Dr. Pepper.’
    Love it!
    Thank you for sharing your words and inspiring me today.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing yourself and thoughtful reflection. Beautifully said. A great encouragement.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    Loved this! So true, in Lent I am often more stressed about how I am fasting, praying, giving. Wondering if I am doing enough or if I am doing it well enough…..that I forget to simply give my heart to Him.
    This was just what I needed to start this season!

  • Reply
    Sue Pritchard
    February 14, 2018 at 9:35 pm

    Reading this was so encouraging to me. Like you wrote it in MY inner voice. What a treasure to experience your expression of such delicate and deep thoughts and to feel in tune with your ideas. Thank you for taking the time to communicate your beautiful understanding and interpretations . Peace.

  • Reply
    Bettie Jo Gomez
    February 15, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Beautiful … come Holy Spirit, fill our hearts with love.

    Bettie Jo

  • Reply
    March 4, 2018 at 6:12 pm

    I love the spirit of this article, do you have any practical examples of offering our wounds to Christ?

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