By Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt
I keep telling myself that I am not a hoarder.
There is, however, some mystical attraction that exists between me and paper. It is difficult for me to pass by a rack where pamphlets of freely available items are on display without having one (or more) of those items leap out and cling to my fingers.
Watching videos of Marie Kondo, or any other de-cluttering advisor does not help. As soon as I pick up a piece of paper, a service bulletin, a picture, a newspaper article, a framed certificate, or any other printed material, I am drawn back to that moment of significance that has linked that particular item with my life.
Suddenly I am mentally and emotionally transported to a memory. It may be of a person, a place, an experience or an emotion that is connected with whatever printed material is within my grasp, but the memory causes me to stop and dwell in that moment of the past.
Going through “stuff” takes time.
A key question that arises time and time again, is, “Do I really ’need’ this…?”. What will happen to those memories if the item which I have deemed to be so precious, for so long, gets torn into pieces and tossed into the conveniently placed blue bag beside me where all the other bits of torn up paper have been consigned in preparation for the recycling bin?
A number of years ago, comedian George Carlin offered a reflection on how we deal with the “stuff” which we carry around with us. He talked about the fact that where we live may be viewed as where we keep our “stuff” and put a roof over it. He commented that if we appear to be overburdened with our “stuff”, we are able to recognize the fact that if we utilize a storage facility, that we are supporting an industry that is simply in the business of looking after our “stuff”. His insights (which you may view on YouTube), are made all the more humorous because of their reflection of reality.
Another incentive of going through my collection of “stuff” is my concern for my family. Do I want them to be burdened with my “stuff”? Will they value and appreciate the material which I have deemed to be so important over time ? Will they know the names and the faces that are so familiar to me?
In the midst of this reflection, I am mindful of one of the petitions offered during the service on Ash Wednesday which begins our observance of the Season of Lent:
For our waste and pollution of your creation,
and our lack of concern for those who come after us.
Accept our repentance, Lord.
(BAS page 285)
From the micro experience of my personal journey, it is really not too difficult to make the leap to a place of viewing any other person, organization or even the Church, who in these transformative times need to go through the same process of examining the extraneous “stuff” which is hampering their ability to function. Weighed down by that which has been collected over time, whether it is as personal as a collection of papers or from an institutional perspective, a collection of aging buildings, the need to divest and dispose of the burden of “stuff”, demands our attention.
Lent is a time for self-examination. It is a time for penitence. It is a time when we come to grips with the challenge of what burdens we carry, what “stuff” weighs us down, what barriers separate us from an awareness of God’s never-failing Love. We are reminded that –
…you are dust, and to dust you shall return…
So, I suggest that the opportunity for all of us, as we enter into the experience of Lent 2023, recognizing that we live in a fragile world that cries out for us to live lives unfettered by “stuff” and to truly offer the heartfelt petitions of Ash Wednesday and seek to observe a holy Lent as we anticipate the joy that Easter brings to us all.
Rev. Canon Christopher B. J. Pratt has retired from full time parish ministry, but continues to offer priestly ministry in the Diocese.