As I prepared for Lent 2023, I was—as I am sure many of you have been as well—prayerfully considering the penances I will undertake throughout the coming 40 days. One such penance I’ve decided to shoulder this year is that of taking only cold showers during Lent. Perhaps it sounds trivial, but I can honestly say that I am not particularly looking forward to it.
Here in the Black Hills of South Dakota where our family resides, February, March, and even the beginning of April are typically cold, snowy months. After a frigid 5 a.m. run along the bike path that cuts through our tiny mountain town, a warm shower is always something I am looking forward to. Nevertheless, I’ve felt the Lord calling me to do this and for a specific reason as well.
As someone who would most aptly be defined as a “Catholic revert,” the first time I ever heard about the practice of penitential cold showers was when I was in the process of making my return to the Church and had the opportunity to participate in one of the Lenten ascetical programs offered by the folks at Exodus 90. Later, upon reading books like Terror of Demons, by Kennedy Hall, and the Reactionary Mind, by Michael Warren Davis, I started to acquire a far greater understanding as to why turning the knob one way in the shower as opposed to the other can be a very fruitful endeavor.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
Sign up to get Crisis articles delivered to your inbox daily
Put simply, what we might perceive as an insignificant sacrifice God can use to achieve something grand. After all, this means of sacrificing is the theology of one of the Church’s greatest saints, Therese of Lisieux, who instructs, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
For me, the last five words of The Little Flower’s preceding quote are why I am choosing to shiver in the shower this Lent. I am doing it for love: namely, the love of my children.
My wife and I have been blessed with three children thus far—twin three-year-old boys and a beautiful eight-month-old girl. Seeing them now at these wonderful, creative, and happy ages and knowing that Satan and the world would love nothing more than to strip them of their purity and innocence makes me tremble. However, as I strive to not let this trembling become crippling fear, I’ve decided to offer it up to God. I have decided to place it, as we so often forget to do, in His far more capable hands.
If losing a little of my comfort each morning is a small means of sacrifice that God can use for something powerful in the lives of those I love, then I would far rather endure the temporary discomfort of a chilly shower than the heartbreak that comes with losing a son or daughter to the debauchery and sadism of our current culture—and what a debauched culture it is.
Take, for instance, the new music video by British “musician” Sam Smith, “I am Not Here to Make Friends.” It is utterly degenerate and unequivocally geared toward confusion—the one tactic Satan relishes most. If, God forbid, an impressionable child stumbled across this video, they would stare bewildered at the screen, not knowing where a man ends and a woman begins. I will spare you any further details, but I am sure you get the point. Clearly, this is by design. A well-formed adult could, although it would be unpleasant, discern what they are watching. But a child? Not a chance.
Yet, this video, and others like it, are just the tip of the massive, perverted iceberg. Everywhere you turn nowadays—from Disney, to “gender affirming” doctors, and even to some in our own Catholic Church, like Fr. James Martin—there are agents of evil trying to rob our children of their goodness and conform them, through confusion, to the depravity of our modern age. We are living and raising children amid an all-out assault on their innocence, and it has far surpassed simply being worrisome.
Here’s the good news though—we are not enduring this assault on innocence all on our own. God is willing, ready, and able to help! He is simply asking that we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Sound familiar? What better time to deny ourselves and better prepare ourselves to carry our cross (or crosses, for that matter) than Lent? Perhaps this war being waged against our families, children, culture, and Church is God telling us to let go of ourselves and take hold of Him. Perhaps it is an invitation to stop indulging endlessly and start sacrificing—even if in a small way. Perhaps this war being waged against our families, children, culture, and Church is God telling us to let go of ourselves and take hold of Him. Perhaps it is an invitation to stop indulging endlessly and start sacrificing.Tweet This
Consider the recent healing of Fr. John Hollowell at Lourdes. What began as a simple offering to God on behalf of others, turned into a period of suffering but, ultimately, ended with a miracle—a miracle that can now serve as a light of hope in these dark times, reassuring us that God is still with us, He is still at work in the world, and He has not forsaken us despite our present troubles.
Let us therefore go and counter this assault on innocence this Lenten season and turn our showers to cold, smile when we fast, pray a little more, and sacrifice for those we love.
Who knows, we might just find that it ends with a miracle.