The Keeping of Lent

John Keble

What you feel about Lent is, I imagine, what all, or almost all, feel, who set themselves to observe it in earnest; even though they are ever so much guided: how to do it, or how they have done it, must be to them as unsatisfactory a question as what to do can be to you. Those who have been, or yet in some sense are, under the dominion of some known and wasting sin, have so far a more definite course; where, by God’s mercy, that is not the case, the perplexity you speak of, painful as it is, may well be borne with true thankfulness, that one’s case is not far more miserable. That will be one way of improving it.

An occasion of prayer

Another, of course, is to make it an occasion of prayer, e.g. if you were to turn the substance of your last letter to me into an address to him, pouring out yourself to him at large, stating to him all the difficulties and cravings which he knows already, but loves to be told of, as Moses, Job, Jeremiah, David did. The 143rd Psalm, if I mistake not, is just in the key, to which your heart will respond. And among uninspired writings there is a book on the list of the Christian Knowledge Society, The Meditations of James Bonnell, Esq., in which spiritual troubles are dealt with in a way, perhaps, to soothe and help you. If you cast yourself before him as well as you can in this spirit, and tell him all, and beg him to think for you of all that you know not how to tell him; he will as surely help and guide you as he has taught you to call him Father. You will judge better than I whether it would not help you to do all this in writing. I would wish it to be done quite at large, and not to take up any very long time at once, so as either to excite or weary you more than can be helped. I should hope and expect that upon using this, or some such devotional help, you would be guided in the choice of times and forms of prayer, and exercises of self-denial, as may best suit your case.


Meanwhile, I would propose one or two obvious things. 1. That you should annex something Lenten – a collect, a verse, or part of hymn – to each of your stated offices of private devotion. 2. That you should, at some time in the day, practise meditation, for at least half-an-hour (and here again the pen might be use ful), on some Lenten subject: e.g. on Monday on Contrition; Tuesday on Confession; Wednesday, Pen­ance (voluntary and involuntary); Thursday, Inter cession; Friday, Our Lord’s Passion in some of its details; Saturday, Resignation. The Sunday sub ject might be suggested by the Sunday services. Direct self-examination might, and prayer of course ought, to be always part of this exercise. ND

Letters of Spiritual of Spiritual Counsel LXXXIV,

edited by Arthur Middleton