Pulling into the driveway of our little abode, I notice two things – we need to paint and the mailbox is knocked off its post lying upside down in the yard. Its poor mouth is gaping wide spewing bills and junk mail into the snowy grass. While walking down to the postal accident, I wonder how that sweet mail lady mustered enough strength to decapitate a mailbox and wonder why she made no effort to mend the injury. Concern quickly fades away when I notice the much anticipated, desperately needed bathroom reading material known as the Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Catalog, a full thousand pages of tackle and trim spread across the glossy pages of catalog canvas. The untapped power contained in this catalog is amazing. 

I collect the mail, place the mail box in its home, sort of. I’ll fix it later. Pressing matters are at hand. The cover alone of this glorious tackle archive with its decades old jumping largemouth bass logo induces daydreams of being on the water pursuing any myriad of fishes that swim.

Once inside the house a yearly ritual that only the most serious of anglers will understand takes place. I head to the basement over to the work bench, clear away the hodge-podge of hunting and home repair gadgets strewn about the table top, and place the monolithic manual of merchandise in a place of honor. Next, I begin to peruse the shelves and cabinets filled with an endless array of fishing lures and tackle. A tote bag swells with little fish catching tools intended to tweak a bait just in case the lure I am using needs jazzing up. On the floor is a large box of random yet essential bass catching supplies. Suspended in the rafters are dozens of fishing poles precisely matched with the perfect reel. Assorted cardboard boxes filled with brand new, unopened, back up lures are crammed on narrow shelves. Needless to say, I have a lot of fishing equipment.

I pull each tackle box and bag from winter hibernation and meticulously inspect and clean out each compartment and pouch of tackle detritus, snip line knots from lure eyelets and swivels, and pick any fish or lake gunk possibly dried out and cemented onto the hooks. Following the lure purification process is the cleansing of the tackle boxes in the laundry tub.

With the empty boxes opened and drying,  forming a precise semi circle around my feet on the basement floor,  and the lure army encamped in any cleared real estate the basement can offer, I turn to the Bass Pro Shops catalog, open it, and allow the marketing incantations to work their magic. Crank baits in several new colors! Buy ‘em! Need ‘em! Check out this new finesse rig someone won a million dollars catching fish on! Get it. Don’t know what this designer was thinking, but Bill Dance says it works. I’m in for a dozen! And, hey, if I am really smart, thrifty, responsible, and a good steward of financial resources, I can obtain a FREE gift card for buying a boat that rivals my mortgage! Still, those guys in the ad are having a ball. That could be me and my family! Aren’t I thoughtful?

For a couple days I will bounce back and forth between the possible tackle I could have (Let’s be honest – I need!) and the tackle already in my possession.  The possibility that the fish will be biting on the one lure that I do not have sends a boat wake of fear and insecurity through me. There is a joke that tackle companies design everything to catch fishermen and not fish. Well, it’s working.

This albeit pointless, obsessive yearly ritual serves two purposes. First, I get to play with all of my awesome fishing stuff in the middle of winter. Secondly, I take inventory of those lures I tend to favor and those that will never, ever enjoy the sweet pleasure of drowning in the brackish depths of some body of water. 

Year after year I take inventory, clean it up, throw it out, give it away, and buy something new, replacing the old. I confess my obsession has even landed me three boats bought and sold in a matter of five years. Crazy right? Semi-thankfully I am sans bass boat now. (My condition was worse before I got married, was blessed with children, when I had a boat, and was chasing a childhood dream of becoming a professional fisherman.)

The sad thing is when I reach into my tackle box and tie on lures for a day of fishing, I will pick the same lures and rotate through them in a day on the water. Why? Because they work. They are what I know. They are simple to use. I have confidence in them. So, why not expunge the excess? 

Way too much about fishing lures, I know. Stow your hat, because this boat is about to throttle up and plane out on the glassy sea of Lent.  

For 40 Days, hopefully beyond the 40, we are called to pray, fast, and give ourselves wholly to God and neighbor. During this Lenten season, we are called to lay out our spiritual and religious tackle box, not on a basement floor, but before the feet of Jesus. We come to Him more earnestly than ever and boldly ask him face to face, “what can I give you?” “Why am I hanging on to things I do not need?” During this season, we begin anew our yearly commitment to daily purification of body and soul in order to soften our hearts to the power and love of Jesus. We beg Christ for the grace to eliminate our excessive human vices and replace them with habits of divine virtue. We learn these 40 days how to rely on grace so we might eliminate the unnecessary accumulation of junk in the deep recesses, not of a tackle bag, but of our hearts. During Lent we ask what are my “go to” approaches for prayer and devotion and spending time with Jesus and how can I keep it up beyond 40 days? Maybe, while implementing the “go to” approach, we ask Christ to give us the strength to do something more, above and beyond the comfort zone? I plead with the Savior, who gave His life for mine, to reveal the skills and talents I already possess and for confidence to surrender them to God for the glory of His name and the betterment of the world around me. I fail more often than not, but I still ask. For 40 days we turn not to a catalog of transitory, superficial “stuff” for inspiration but to the Sacred Scriptures, the living Word of God, nobly proclaimed at the Mass and silently revered or spoken at home in quiet prayer time alone or as a family. 

Whatever your yearly Lenten Ritual might be, keep up the good work. If you are like me and have those extra little things taking up space in your heart, remember that only Christ and His grace are powerful enough to assist us on our pilgrimage to holiness. Be mindful these 40 days and every day of Jesus’ presence in and His desire for your soul. 

May your Lent be filled with graces beyond counting. See you next time around the campfire. Oh, if anyone wants to go fishing this spring, I’m ready! Tackle provided if need be. You clean your own fish though.