By Father Joshua J. Whitfield
Special to The Texas Catholic
At the beginning of Lent, I always think about Winnie-the-Pooh, particularly the time he got stuck in Rabbit’s front door. You remember the story: he’d eaten too much and, trying to leave, found himself so tightly wedged he couldn’t go either in or out.
Aggravated, Pooh said to Rabbit, “It all comes of not having doors big enough.” Yet equally aggravated, Rabbit answered Pooh, “It all comes of eating too much.” Cross with each other, they sent for Christopher Robin, and his advice was, of course, simple and sage: “Then there’s only one thing to be done. We shall have to wait for you to get thin again.”
And so the story continues as both Rabbit and Christopher Robin wait with Pooh as he slowly thins himself out. They stay with him, the story goes, and read him a “Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness.”
I recall this story around Ash Wednesday every year because it reminds me a little of what Lent is all about. For me, it’s a parable of spiritual struggle, and it points to some of the basic virtues and remedies of Lent.
We too, you see, need to get thin again. Like Pooh, we’ve probably eaten a bit too much, each of us gluttons, a little. Ever since Adam and Eve, we’ve been eating what we shouldn’t; so the Church, much like Christopher Robin, tells us to slow down and fast from foods we most crave.
We also would do well to read a “Sustaining Book.” In Lent the Church calls us to deeper prayer. Pooh Bear had to stop what he was doing and turn his little brain toward something sustaining. Like him, we should turn toward Scripture and prayer.
And of course, we too would do better with a few friends by our side. Pooh had Rabbit and Christopher Robin to help him. The Catechism talks about almsgiving, and calls Lent a season of “fraternal sharing.” Lent isn’t just a time to look after ourselves, you see, but also each other. Our sins are often mingled together, and so too is our redemption. Which is one of the beautiful things about God, that he wants so much to save us all together.
And so this Lent, if it helps you, think about Winnie-the-Pooh. Hopefully we’re not too proud to see how much we’re like him. Perhaps we can look around and find those people the Lord has put in our lives to help us, people in our parishes and families. Perhaps this Lent we can spend more time with our Sustaining Book, more time with each other.
At the very least it’ll help us get a little thin again. But I imagine it’ll help a whole lot more.
Father Joshua J. Whitfield is the pastoral administrator of St. Rita Catholic Church.