St. Francis de Sales wrote: “Lent is the autumn of the spiritual life when we pick the fruit and gather it for the whole year.” Really? Autumn? Isn’t Lent the springtime of the Church Year? (This year’s early Ash Wednesday even makes Lent more like mid-winter.) Well, let’s humor St. Francis by going along with his idea. Is Lent the autumn of the spiritual life? Hm… Let us count the ways. First, Lent is not for wimps. Spring flowers and foliage are quite delicate, while in autumn nature is hardy, having weathered the storms and sun of summer. You’ve got a point, St. Francis. Lent is for hardy souls, souls of autumn. Second, in autumn nature prepares for winter, as animals attest as they gather food and grow thick fur. Similarly, Lent prepares for the Easter Season. Lent’s regimen of prayer-fasting-almsgiving prepares us for a heightened spiritual life celebrating the resurrection. Third, after the brilliant weeks of red, orange, and green, autumn becomes rather blah, often cloudy and damp. Lent, too, has lots of ordinary days, especially the blah days of February. But the best part about ordinary is that it highlights the extraordinary. Easter becomes that much brighter, louder, more energizing and glorious. OK, St. Francis, we’ll pick the autumn fruits of Lent and use Lent’s fruits throughout the whole year.