TUESDAY BEFORE LENT

Worms, like robins, are sure signs of spring.
I see them on the sidewalk as I walk down State Street in the morning rain.
I suppose the young priest at St. Paul’s
is going through his Lenten notes,
making a long list for us, a list of suggested standard penances.

I don’t suppose, Father, you could approach the whole Lent thing with
lightheartedness and joy?
Please don’t do Psalm 22 and tell us all what worms we are.
That would be an insult to a few thousand magnificent species of invertebrates.

I was young once, too, Young Father.
I was a young nun supposedly espoused to Jesus Christ.
I would jump out of bed at 5:45 a.m., make the Sign of the Cross and dress quickly, with a memorized prayer for each piece of my clothes.
I would race to the chapel and genuflect gracefully
and try not to sleep during morning prayer, meditation, Office and Mass.

I was young once, too, Young Father,
one of the fresh-faced novices whose jawbones and foreheads
always hurt because of that starched headdress.
We vied with each other in practicing heroic virtue.
We took pride in saying cross prayer until our arms went numb.

And then we learned that older Sisters didn’t abide
by all the pesky rules, but they had something else inside.
They said we had “first fervor” as if it were a childhood disease.

I won’t be doing penances in Lent this year.
I’ll jump out of bed and greet the growing spring.