Last Sunday, Marge Stockwell, our Faith Formation Coordinator, held an excellent presentation on Lent for the children (and teachers!) of the Faith Formation program. It’s interesting how you can feel like you know everything there is to know about Lent, but having it all laid out by a knowledgeable host can open your eyes or act as a valuable refresher course. And for my children, it was an opportunity to learn more of the “nuts and bolts” of this meaningful Catholic tradition.
You’re probably familiar with the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Have you taken the time this Lent to reflect on what we’re called to do during this season?
Lent is, of course, the 6-week period leading up to Easter, a solemn time to prepare for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And while it is indeed a solemn time, I don’t think that means as Catholics that we should mope around being all miserable. Let’s take a closer look at those three pillars.
Prayer: I bet most of us have some type of daily prayers we do whether it’s Lent or not. But as Marge’s presentation pointed out, Lent is a great time to step up our prayer game, whether it’s reciting the Rosary, practicing Eucharistic adoration, or simply adding additional prayer time to our days.
Fasting: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics eat one normal meal and two smaller meals as part of a fast. And while abstaining from meat on Fridays is not strictly fasting, it’s another important aspect of Lent. These rules can be tough to follow, but as Fr. Slezak said in a recent homily, the point of fasting is not punishment. It’s meant to replicate the sacrifice of Christ’s 40-day journey into the desert. I’ve found that thinking about Jesus’s awful suffering during that time is a powerful way to quiet a rumbling tummy while fasting.
Almsgiving: Almsgiving is an act of charity toward those less fortunate or really anyone we deal with. This can take the form of food or monetary donations or volunteering time to help the poor. Almsgiving always reminds me of the well-known and beautiful passage in the Gospel of Matthew: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
Looking more deeply at Lent, I want to highlight something Bishop Robert Barron wrote recently: “The Church traditionally says there are three things we ought to do during Lent, and I put stress on the word ‘do.’…This is going to sound a little bit strange, but my recommendation for this Lent is, in a certain way, to forget about your spiritual life—by which I mean forget about looking inside at how you’re progressing spiritually. Follow the Church’s recommendations and do three things: pray, fast, and give alms. And as you do, pray to draw closer to the Lord as the center of your life—and the reason you do everything.”
It's an interesting way to look at Lent and while I personally don’t want to completely forget about my spiritual life, I like the emphasis on “do.” Lent should not be a passive time for Catholics. We should be out and about helping the poor, praying more instead of eating more and actively preparing ourselves for the joyous Easter season.
May Christ help us to have a fruitful Lent!
~ Dana Marascia