Stones and Snakes Instead of Bread and Fish

I’ve come to expect that my Lent will never end up quite the way I envisioned it. One year that I felt especially convicted about Lenten fasting and giving up all sweets and junk food, I ended up pregnant and super sick and the only things I could imagine eating were on my banned list. My cousin once gave up yelling for Lent, then broke both her legs and couldn’t get upstairs in their house. Circumstances change. Sometimes we need to be flexible.

I think it’s a good practice, when choosing Lenten disciplines, to weigh my current need for active versus passive mortifications.

Things like being pregnant or postpartum, recovering from injury or sickness, dealing with chronic illness, particular job or family stresses, are all passive mortifications. They give us the opportunity to offer that suffering, as it comes, to God. They give us the opportunity to not just grudgingly get through the day, but to really embrace our suffering, and recognize it as something that can help us grow in holiness. It’s about seeing ourselves accompanying Jesus into the desert, and along the Way of the Cross, so that we can triumph with Him on Easter morning.

When facing passive mortifications, my focus is on joyfully accepting them, and on adding in good practices, like extra prayer time, or particular devotions like the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross.

In times of life when I’m not faced with passive mortifications, I use Lent to seek out active ones.

Those are the years I mindfully practice detachment from some of the comforts in my life. Things that are not sinful in themselves can be sinful for us once we start believing them to be essential, and when we form attachments to them. They can be sinful for us when we start choosing lesser things for ourselves out of habit or laziness. When we start giving OURSELVES stones and snakes instead of bread and fish.

Lent is the perfect time to try out better attachments, resignation to passive mortifications or choosing active mortifications, and see if at the end of these six weeks, we are improved.

One week down, five to go. It’s a good time to make sure I’ve planned the Lent I need.

Lent is the perfect time to try out better attachments, resignation to passive mortifications or choosing active mortifications, and see if at the end of these six weeks, we are improved. Click To Tweet

Ever listened to the Rosary prayed aloud? Maybe add this in between your favorite podcasts.

Kendra Tierney is a forty-two year old mother of nine and wife of one living in and working on a big old fixer-upper house in Los Angeles. She’s a homeschooler and a regular schooler and is relishing the new freedom from carpooling that’s come with a sixteen-year-old in the house. Her new book, The Catholic All Year Compendium, Liturgical Living for Real Life, is here. You can find her first book, A Little Book About Confession, here, her blog here, and her word art here.


  • Reply
    Kristin Fontana
    March 14, 2019 at 5:22 am

    Thank you Kendra. As a mom to 5 littles, during these past few years many days of our lives seem like Lent throughout the year so it’s such a gift to hear you describe the distinction between passive & active mortifications. I sometimes feel guilty for not “doing” more for Lent like I used to. This post helps put me in the right perspective. Thank you.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2019 at 9:02 am

    Thank you, Kendra. It is true that we can be our own worst enemy-giving ourselves snakes and bad things that pull us even further from God. It is good to evaluate ourselves not only in Lent, but at other times of the year as well, so that we can identify these things in our lives, root them out, and draw even closer to God and thus closer to the life He wants for us to live.

  • Reply
    March 14, 2019 at 10:15 am

    I gave up social media for lent and am missing some of my favorite Catholic accounts because they especially make me feel connection, perspective, and a call for introspection. Interstingly enough, half way through this reflection today, I started feeling exactly that. Go an behold, when I got to the end of the post and saw the author’s bio, it was Kendra, one of my favorite IG Catholic moms! God knew I needed to heR from you and your words still found a way to come my way. Thank you for your ministry, itbhas changed my life. Blessing to you and your (growing) family this lent.

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