24 March 2023

A journey through Lent 2023
with Samuel Johnson (31)

‘I purpose to approach the altar again tomorrow’ … the altar in the chapel in Dr Milley’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I got back to Stony Stratford late last night after two days in Dublin, mainly in the Representative Church Body Library in Rathgar, researching a chapter commissioned for a book planned for later this year.

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

Johnson led a deeply sacramental life. In Lent 1762, thinking back on his previous reception of Holy Communion, and looking forward to receiving Communion the following morning, he wrote on 21 April:

My indolence, since my last reception of the Sacrament, has sunk into grosser sluggishness, and my dissipation spread into wilder negligence. My thoughts have been clouded with sensuality, and, except that from the beginning of this year I have in some measure forborne excess of strong drink, my appetites have predominated over my reason. A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year, and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me without leaving any impression.

This is not the life to which Heaven is promised. I purpose to approach the altar again tomorrow. Grant, O Lord, that I may receive the Sacrament with such resolutions of a better life as may by thy grace be effectual, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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