Ash Wednesday in our home is a day of radical transformation. There’s an immediate change in atmosphere: the house is quieter, and my teen is playing chant (a rarity these days, for him).

I woke up to two kids who have purposely given up their hair for Lent. My 16-yo shaved his head again this year to raise awareness and funds for children with cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. My 21-yo gave up her beautiful curls simply because it’s Lent. Later on in the morning, my 11-year-old decided to cut her hair to shoulder length too.

I still get a jolt when I walk into a room and see them. They’re the same children, but different. They sometimes choose to do things that I wouldn’t have chosen for them, but they are on their own lenten journeys. Even if I were the best parent in the world, in the end, it’s not about me. It’s about grace. They do these difficult things and do it with joy. I sit here, get teary, feel humbled, and applaud quietly in my heart. I am in awe at their faith, and the ways they find to express it. Now my children have much to teach me, often, more than I have to teach them. They know the world needs much reparation and that we are not called to be mediocre Christians or Catholics.

Radical comes from the Latin word RADIX — or root. These days we need to dig deep… down, down, down… into the roots of who we are: children of God. When we look at everything in the light of the reality that we are God’s children, our actions then become not the actions of extremists but of people who do things out of LOVE.

In today’s world, this may not be seen as BALANCE. But balance is what we achieve when we return to the Father.

The Prodigal Son

Fr. Dubay writes of “squandered sonship”…”a dissolute life of self-indulgence”…. Those words make one think of drunks, or drug addicts… but we don’t have to first live lives of prodigality to answer the call to radicality. When I allow myself to be slave to my own desires, that is when I’m most caged. Desire is at once fleeting as it is never-ending. There is satisfaction, and then there isn’t. And it’s funny how when that dissatisfaction is fed, it quiets down for a while, and then it rages even stronger. Unbridled desires can grow into full-blown addictions, if we let them. I may not be vulnerable to drug use, or alcohol, or pornography, but I can still be slave to sleeping late, or forgoing my prayer time, or spending too many hours online. As I’ve grown older I’ve found that what my friend writes is so true:

In medio virtus stat: “Virtue lies in the middle.”

“Slavery” to God’s will — it sounds extreme, but it’s what returns us to proper balance. “God first” is the kind of bondage that frees. The more I meditate on His Word, all the while rebelling from my sleep-deprived state, the quieter my mind becomes. The more I give my fiat in the day to day, to HIS plans rather than mine, the greater the peace. The more I obey, the quicker I find freedom.

We may be Prodigal Sons and Daughters, and yet all we need to do is repent, return, once more get back to the radix of our existence. We are welcomed back into the Father’s arms, where we are embraced, forgiven, loved.