Remember Thou Art Dust

… And to dust you shall return.

Ash Wednesday dust

Ash Wednesday has arrived to usher in the Lenten season. During this time of preparation for Easter, Christians are encouraged to renew and deepen our vigilance in prayer, fasting, and penance. Before His glorious Resurrection, Our Lord first had to pass through His sorrowful Passion. If we would be His disciples, each of us must take up his cross and follow Him.

 It’s a staple of most Ash Wednesday sermons, but in our consoomerist age, it bears repeating: Giving up chocolate for Lent doesn’t mean gorging on caramel instead. Pigging out at Red Lobster–a company which supports infanticide–violates the spirit of abstaining from meat. We are called to practice self-denial. If your Lenten practices are pleasant, they’re probably not encouraging much spiritual growth.

Another oft-suggested but salutary idea for Lent is to take on a new spiritual devotion in addition to giving something up. Resolve to pray an entire rosary each day. Dedicate yourself to at least fifteen minutes of daily Scripture reading. Make a resolution to attend daily Mass or Eucharistic adoration.

And here’s the key to spiritual practice I’ve learned firsthand: Once you adopt a new spiritual discipline, NEVER EVER STOP.

Christians need to adopt a nurse shark mentality to the spiritual life. If you’re not constantly moving ahead, you’re falling behind. There is no treading water. Stop swimming, and you die.

That’s a fitting analogy for a day set aside to remind us of our mortality. The Christian should always stand ready to meet death, which as Christ graciously warned us, comes at an hour we know not.

Far from morbid rumination, Jesus’ exhortation should encourage us to avail ourselves of the generous channels of grace He has established and made easily available through His Church. Though in Lent we deny the flesh, the soul can have its fill through the overflowing abundance of liturgies and sacraments on offer throughout this holy season. It would be a shame to mortify the body and starve the spirit.

If you’ve never observed Lent before, this one is the best time in living memory to start. With a global pandemic on the horizon–or already here–it’s a good time to go to confession if you haven’t been in a while. Austerity may not be optional soon, but voluntary and involuntary suffering alike can be offered up for our and others’ intentions.

Of course, there’s a hard moral line between healthy purification and rashness that may lead to self-harm. There is no moral obligation to do something harmful. While every reasonable effort should be made to attend the liturgy on Sundays and holy days of obligation, that obligation is suspended if you are ill to the point that Mass attendance would likely worsen your condition and/or infect others. Similarly, if you are well but going to church carries a risk of exposure to infect people, prudence dictates staying home.

For those currently living in either condition who wish to have some experience of the liturgy, here is a high Ash Wednesday Mass, courtesy of YouTube:

Spiritual preparations take pride of place, but our physical needs shouldn’t be neglected, either. To that end, here is some practical advice for riding out a quarantine in relative comfort.

First, Author David Stewart provides a helpful checklist of vital supplies.

Food:

  1. Rice – 100 lbs
  2. Pinto Beans – 25 lbs
  3. Condensed milk – 2 cases
  4. Canned Corn – 2 cases
  5. Cheerios – 4 boxes
  6. Kodiak pancake mix – 2 large boxes
  7. Beef Jerky – 24 servings
  8. Whey Protein – 2 bags (220 servings)
  9. Nuts (Various)
  10. Olive oil and other cooking oils
  11. Water – 2 cases bottles plus at least 25 gallons of pure water
  12. Tabasco or similar for seasoning
  13. Protein bars – 2 boxes

The whey protein in particular is an important nutrient source that most people miss. The asking price may give some newbie preppers pause, but once you get past the sticker shock, you realize that a single serving will last you all day, and one container has around 75 servings. That means you’re getting all the protein you need for less than 70 cents per day.

Definitely read the rest of David’s post for more vital information on supplements, medicines, and sundries you’ll want to have on hand.

A final potentially lifesaving tip comes from Jim’s good friend on Twitter. Many preppers have been recommending N 95 and P 95 masks to help avoid infection. Major chains like Wal-Mart and CVS are already selling out of these masks, but Jim recently shared his secret means of obtaining these crucial supplies.

Instead of drug and grocery stores, which will quickly be picked  clean by normies, head to your local Lowe’s, Menards, Home Depot, or hardware store. To avoid starting a panic, don’t say you’re looking or masks to protect against the virus. Instead, ask for respirator masks that are recommended for laying sheet rock or two part epoxy. Masks used for those jobs usually have N or P 95 ratings (double check to make sure), and buying them won’t arouse suspicion.

That should take care of your basic necessities. It is equally important, however, to make provision for leisure time–which we’ll probably have a lot more of soon.

Luckily, the first book in my theological horror series is now just 99 cents! Load up on the whole mind-blowing Soul Cycle for half the cost of a blu ray!

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