Best of Lent 2012

Lent is drawing to a close. As we look back over these forty days, what happened? What changed for you? What do you hope to remember and take away from your experience of Lent this year?

Because Pray Tell is a blog, it seemed fitting to offer a retrospective of stuff online that was memorable—even outstanding—this Lent:  The “Best of Lent 2012.”

Just to be clear: there were no nominations, no panels of judges, no votes. This is “editor’s picks” and at the moment, I’m the editor. If I’ve missed your absolutely favorite Lenten item, feel free to share it in the comment box.

And have a blessed Triduum.

Most original:

I loved everything about this story. The fact that the artist wanted to remain anonymous; the fact that he gave the things away; the fact that he references Pope John Paul II’s very fine but practically invisible “Letter to Artists”; the fact that London conveniently has a “King’s Cross” to begin with, which provided a wonderful peg to hang this on; the insight into the psychology of commuting (which I know well) that realizes people do indeed mark stations on their regular train rides; the creative leap to the thought that they could be praying in this setting—everything about this story was wonderful.

But here’s the best: The artist’s pamphlet describes the project as “just a little idea for those Circle Line passengers who believe that pondering on the enormous mystery of Christ’s death [and mysterious enormity of His love] could be a good thing.” You have to appreciate the understatement.

Most ironic:

I’m not even going to comment on this. You get it.

Most impressive:

  • Fr. Michael Joncas’s Pray Tell posting of works-in-progress (hymns for Sundays of Lent) and his even-handed response to critics

It takes a certain mixture of chutzpah and spiritual maturity to share creative work in progress on a blog, where the task is not only to tolerate criticism, but also to actively listen, process it, and adapt to the best of it as part of a dialogue. As I watched Mike Joncas do this at Pray Tell over the course of Lent, with his “hymn of the day” texts for each Lenten Sunday, I was seriously impressed. There aren’t many people who could pull this off. Now, it’s always possible that he spit nails while away from his computer, but his responses to critics on line were completely cool and even-handed. A class act. (The texts were pretty good, too.) Here are the links, in case you missed them:

Lent 1Lent 2Lent 3Lent 4Lent 5Palm Sunday

Best message in fewest words:

One of the hottest new websites going these days is Pinterest, a kind of bulletin-board where participants tack things up (pictures, mostly) that they like. Quite a few people took on the subject of Lent and lent (sorry, couldn’t resist) personal interest to it by posting their favorite Lenten foods, practices (housecleaning was a popular one: 40 days / 40 bags of junk discarded), and more. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the era of inspirational posters (I know, I am dating myself), but a word-art picture pinned there caught my eye. Here it is:

I like this because it describes a certain kind of conversion. “I always thought… but…” and Lent, we sometimes forget, is about conversion. It also confronts the viewer, who may be quite sentimental, with the question: What is love, really? The cross of Christ, and the crosses we bear as disciples, are nothing without love (see 1 Corinthians 13). Yet the mystery of the cross, it seems to me, strikes to the heart of what all genuine love is. Deep human love, true love, always carries a cross—joyfully, triumphantly perhaps, but a cross. In order to love, we have to be willing to accept suffering. We grow into this realization with time and experience, if we are open to it.

See? I described this insight in 121 words. Whoever made this image got it in 13.

Finest choral work ever to be improvised

Last, but definitely not least… Watch this film clip to hear a brilliant rendition of the Passion according to Saint Mark, sung at Trinity Church (Episcopal), Wall Street, in New York City. The music is gorgeous and the singers do a fantastic job, but what put this over the edge into the utterly unique is that, as the description on their website says, the music is “improvised.”


Evidently so. The papers they are reading supply words only. Even the choir parts are improvised.

Bravo! How could we not notice?

If you want to watch the whole liturgy, you can see it here.



  1. My Lenten “bests 2012” are 3:
    1) I echo and applaud your “most impressive” hymn text offerings by Michael Joncas. I looked forward to the new one each week, mulled over the comments, both accepted and rejected, (and the reasons for each) and was actually able to use 2 of them, which were very well received!
    2) “The Seven Deadly Sins in Film” presented on the THINKING FAITH blog of the British Jesuits. (The final offering, wrath, presented by our own contributor, Philip Endean, SJ) I found these articles to be prayerful, thought provoking and stimulating.
    3)Daily perusing of the prayer/music/art offerings on Austin Fleming’s blog

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