The Long, Long Lent of 2020

Where are now the kings and princes that once reigned over all the world, whose glory and triumph were lifted up above the earth? Where are now the innumerable company and power of Xerxes and Caesar? Where are the great victories of Alexander and Pompey? Where are now the great riches of Croesus and Crassus? But what shall we say of those who once were kings and governors of this realm?  Where are they now whom we have known and seen in our days in such great wealth and glory that it was thought by many they would never have died, never have been forgotten? They had all their pleasures at the full, both of delicious and good fare, of hawking, hunting, also of excellent horses and stallions, greyhounds and hounds for their entertainment, their palaces well and richly furnished, strongholds and towns without number. They had a great plenty of gold and silver, many servants, fine apparel for themselves and their lodgings. They had the power of the law to proscribe, to punish, to exalt and set forward their friends and loved ones, to put down and make low their enemies, and also to punish by temporal death rebels and traitors. Every man held with them, all were at their command. Every man was obedient to them, feared them, also honored and praised them, everywhere now? Are they not gone and wasted like smoke? Of them it is written in another place, mox ut honorificati fuerint et exaltati, dificientes quemadmodum fumus deficient (when they were in their utmost prosperity and fame, they soon failed and came to nothing, even as smoke does) (Ps. 36:2). St. James compares the vanity of this life to a vapor, and he says it shall perish and wither away as a flower in the hay season. (James 4:15).

Saint John Fisher


Has this Lent gone on for a thousand years?  It feels like it to me.  I have never missed Mass before except on rare occasions of illness, and I feel like I have been traversing a spiritual desert for the past few weeks.  When this is over I will never take Mass for granted again.  My heart goes out to families with loved ones who have died during this time period and who have been denied a funeral Mass, and who had to bury their loved ones with small private grave side services.  Best not to think of those who have died in mortal sin, deprived of easy access to confession.

Perhaps God allowed this debacle in part to teach us how arid a life without Him truly is, at least a life without the ability to go to Mass whenever we please and receive the sacraments whenever we wish.  Of course, what we are experiencing is the norm for Catholics throughout history and today who have lived in times and places where the Church has been, or is, undergoing persecution, where Christ is crucified anew each day.

I often use the phrase “this Vale of Tears” to describe this life.  For us in the West it often appears to be merely a figure of speech.  In the West, materially, it tends not to be true.  Most of us enjoy physical comfort that would be the envy of most rulers who lived prior to the last century.  But as Christ taught us, Man does not live by bread alone.  Spiritually perhaps, this was, in part, allowed to occur to demonstrate the spiritual impoverishment of much of the West.

All bad experiences can be profitable if we learn from them, and the Long Lent of 2020 gives us much to ponder for our spiritual well being.

More to explorer


  1. I’m inclined to believe that those who have genuine repentance and the intention to go to confession are forgiven. Also, that God is not limited by the Blessed Sacrament in His channels of grace. Still, it’s tough. I’ve been watching Masses on EWTN, participating as if I were at the Mass, but it doesn’t feel the same, and it shouldn’t. The reverence due to a digital depiction of the Host is the same as that due to a statue. I’m not in the physical presence of the Presence. Fortunately, my pastor has been having Eucharistic Adoration in the parking lot every Friday night.

  2. I can’t count how many times I said I wasn’t going to take something for granted and mean what I say in the moment only to take it for granted. Also, a sense of obligation is a necessity for me. Without it, things in my life begin to unravel real quick.

  3. I’m inclined to believe that those who have genuine repentance and the intention to go to confession are forgiven.

    It’s a frequent topic on Catholic Answers and such– where the short version of their many times repeated answer is that the gift of confession is that you know you’ve been forgiven. If you didn’t deliberately cheat, you’re forgiven.

  4. I went to a drive up confession yesterday. The priest stood at the parking lot curb in front of the church with his hat, winter coat, gloves and face mask on. We drove our cars up to him, confessed our sins, were absolved and then drove off. The strangest confession I’ve ever experienced. Like everything else this Lent this too was strange since I never confess face to face. This time I had no choice. Something else to offer to our Lord this Lent.

  5. Thank you Don, I’m getting some solace from some of the Readings in the Office of Readings, particularly that from today from the Letter to the Hebrews (12:1-13)

    “Endure your trials as the discipline of God, who deals with you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you do not know the discipline of sons, you are not sons but bastards.”

    I wish there were drive-in confession where I live.

  6. Here’s the last paragraph of that reading, which is what offers solace:

    “At the time it is administered, all discipline seems a cause for grief and not for joy, but later it brings forth the fruit of peace and justice to those who are trained in its school. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight the paths you walk on, that your halting limbs may not be dislocated but healed.”

  7. Before Lent started, I had prayed that this would be my best one yet. It just goes to show that prayers are answered in ways that you never quite dream of.
    Thank you, Don.

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