Lent Basics

By the time that you are reading this, the Holy Season of Lent has begun. Lent is a season of penitential preparation for the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection at Easter. As we progress in this season, it might be good for us to recall that the Church prescribes three main ways for us to grow in our spiritual life during Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Here are some practical suggestions on how we can grow in these three disciplines this Lent:

First, prayer. What is prayer? Nothing less than engaging in a loving conversation with our God. Sometimes it involves listening and sometimes it involves talking. This Lent, let’s do some more listening. The best way to listen to be attentive to the Word of God. Perhaps this Lent one spiritual practice we can take on is reading prayerfully the Gospel that will be read the next morning at a Mass and spending some time thinking and praying about it, allowing it to be the driving, animating factor behind our day. You can find the readings online at this address: usccb.org/readings.

Second, fasting. We know the rules of the Church’s discipline on fasting and abstinence and we must follow that if we of the age to be obliged to do so. However, fasting means so much more than just giving up candy or soda. One way to fast in this season of Lent is to abstain from posting on social media. From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, how about not posting or reading on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? How about making the investment of time and effort that is calling someone on the phone or, better still, maybe sending them a card or a handwritten letter? We have lost the sense of the personal. Letter writing is a kind, thoughtful way to reach out to someone. Make a Lent a time to return to this custom.

Third, almsgiving. Certainly, this means giving more to charities and to people in need, However, another way to give alms is to share in the most precious resource that we have in our world- our time. Loneliness is a serious problem, affecting millions of people around the world. It affects people’s health, both mentally and physically. It is so significant the British Government has established a Commission on Loneliness. When was the last time, in our very busy lives, that we just spend some time being with another person? Have we returned that phone call, that letter, that e-mail to someone who just wanted to say hello?  Giving the alms of our most precious resource, time, might just be the thing to do to grow in holiness.

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving- three sure ways that the Church gives us to become empty so that the Lord can fill us. Praise God for this gift!