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Friedrich von Hügel: One Little Lent Practice
When self-imposed checks spring from love, they feed love.
A special edition of Letters from Saints for Ash Wednesday — may grace shape a new space in your heart this Lenten season.
In this letter, Baron Friedrich von Hügelencourages his niece to practice some little form of voluntary renunciation, a small “self-check” during Lent. I love his gentle wisdom, advising against imposing too many restrictions on food, sleep, and dress. He ends his letter by reminding her what spiritual practices are all about.
My Darling Child,
I want this letter to reach you on Ash Wednesday, when we all start Lent, because there is one little practice I should like to dwell upon for a minute, in case you have not yet waked up to it, or that you require, perhaps, a little encouragement in it. I mean the practice of some little voluntary renunciation.
I know well, of course, my Gwen, how much vague and airy wisdom oozes out of the comfortable and hallow modern mind about this. But then you see, we have the “little” examples of the Baptist in the wilderness, with his wild honey and locusts meal; Our Lord's Fast of forty days; St. Paul's mastery of his body; and really, without a break, the asceticism of all the great saints.
I say this not to suggest anything special in your food, sleep or dress; and as to the amount of church, half an hour a day will be enough, and it would be unwise to add to it, even in Lent.
But I am thinking of something without thinking what - that would correspond, say, to my not buying my books for myself during Lent.
Depend upon it, such little self-checks - checks on good propensions [dispositions], and checks self-imposed - where they spring from love, really feed love. They are good things and still useful to your spiritual growth.
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Baron Friedrich von Hügel was an Austrian-born British philosopher, religious thinker, and philanthropist. Born in 1852, Baron von Hügel attended the University of Vienna, where he studied psychology, philosophy, Greek literature, and history. After graduating, he moved to England and was soon elected to the House of Lords. His writings on religion and philosophy explored the relationship between faith and science, and he was a major influence on the thought of Christian existentialism. He also worked to promote social justice and foster inter-religious understanding. One of his most famous quotes is, "My religion must have a heart as large as the world." Baron Friedrich von Hügel passed away in 1925.
Von Hügel, Friedrich. Letters to a Niece. Vatican City: Regent College Publishing, 2001.