On the eve of Ash Wednesday, the usual resolution is made to have not to have a glass of wine again until Easter Day. It’s a trivialising of Lent, though, which should be a time of self-examination.
Colm Tóibín’s novel The Master asks questions of all who have lived in Ireland about our demonising of others, our lack of respect for of other traditions, our deafness to those hurt by our entrenched ways.
“’William suffers sometimes. His dark dreams overwhelm him, and when I first learned that about him I wanted him away from me. I wished to be elsewhere when he seemed ready to give into the darkness. There was nothing I could do for him, but I have learned, just as the boys and Peggy have learned, that it does not take much to comfort him.’
Henry attempted to convey by his silence that he would listen to her with sympathy for as long as she wished to speak.
‘Peggy was a very difficult child,’ Alice went on, ‘and night after night she would scream when she was in bed as the light was turned off. And because we thought that she would have to learn to sleep in the dark we left her screaming. We thought that there was no earthly reason for it, but there was. A nun had assured her that her not being a Catholic would mean eternal damnation and she believed her. That was why she screamed. We realized that if we had asked her at the beginning why she was afraid, she might have told us.’
Henry moved to put more logs on the fire and they sat in a silence broken only by the mild sea wind and the crackling of the burning wood”.
Lent questions should include:
Have I said things that have caused people unnecessary pain or fear?
Would I have the courage to say what I feared?
Would I have the strength to cope with the fears of others?
What is untold?
Compared with the serious stuff, giving things up is child’s play.