March 11, 2020
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What Can Bed, Bath, and Beyond Teach Us About Lent?

What Can Bed, Bath, and Beyond Teach Us About Lent?

In the February 19 edition of the Wall Street Journal is an article entitled “Bed Bath Boss Seeks to Cut The Clutter.” I found that an interesting title, since Lent is about reducing some of the clutter in our physical and spiritual life.

CEO, Mark Tritton, conducted and experiment centered on decluttering stores. He experimented with can openers. BB&B offered over 3 dozen different types of can openers. Mr. Tritton believed that a large selection of options led consumers to “purchase paralysis.” He surmised that having too many options complicated the buying decision. And so, he reduced the number of can opener options from three dozen to only three. The result? Sales of can openers increased!

Mr. Tritton plans to update the stores in the coming year. Putting a new face on the in-store experience. Declutter the aisles. No more merchandise piled to the ceilings. Give customers better wi-fi access and continue to reduce the number of items offered for sale. He told investors that the company was too scattered in its approach to updating the 1,000 stores currently under operation. Competing for the $350 million earmarked for improving the stores were 45 different initiatives. No one initiative was receiving the needed resource to be successful resulting in confusion and dismal progress.

What does this have to do with Lent?

Lent is a time for us to take inventory. What do we have in the stores of ourselves that is unnecessary clutter? What do we have piled to the ceilings of our spirits? How much time and resource are we spending taking care of the material clutter and stuff in our lives? Can we refocus the investment of time and energy to fewer spiritual things?  

What? I thought that part of Lent was to perhaps take on more devotion and prayer, and yet you are suggesting we devote time to fewer spiritual things?

Exactly.

I heard a newly baptized Catholic complain that since coming into the Church through RCIA, she has been overwhelmed by many good intentioned people in the parish, each proposing their favorite devotion. She can’t seem to choose and so she is trying to do them all. Rosary. Divine Mercy. Consecration to the Sacred Heart. First Fridays. First Saturdays. St. Joseph 30 days prayer. A plethora of novenas. 

“Honestly”, she shared, “I don’t know that I have the energy to be a Catholic.”

My advice to her was to discern which devotion speaks to her. These devotions are all good, yet none of them is required for our salvation. That is Church teaching. Devotees of the Rosary don’t like it when I say that, but it is a devotion and came after the period of the apostles and Divine Revelation.

My point is, we need to reduce the inventory and clutter, sometimes, in our spiritual house. A devotion prayed and practiced well is far better than going through the motions with many devotional practices. You will find that as you walk the spiritual path, at times, one devotion will speak to you now where in that past it did not. It is O.K. to move about if that is where the Spirit is calling you.

This is not a novel idea of my own making. I learned this from St. Therese of Lisieux, in her Story of a Soul.  

“The daily recitation of the Divine Office is a great joy to me in spite of my unworthiness, but apart from this I have not the courage to make myself search for wonderful prayers in books; there are so many of them, and it gives me a headache. In any case, each one seems more beautiful than the one before. As I can’t say all of them, and do not know which to choose, I just act like a child who can’t read; I tell God, quite simply, all that I want to say, and He always understands.”

May we ponder this wisdom from a Doctor of the Church. Maybe if we reduce our options from dozens of devotions to two or three, our spiritual stock will bear more fruit.

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Written by
David Seitz