There are three holy practices we are called to embrace during Lent. These practices are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Lent is about journeying with Jesus to the cross. This means moving beyond simply being grateful for what Jesus did for us, and towards accepting his invitation to take up our own crosses daily. This involves entering into our personal places of suffering more deeply through reflective prayer, moderation, and charity. If we look at each of these three practices, we can think of ways to make a plan to include them in our daily life more intentionally through the Lenten season.
Small consistent movements are more helpful than creating an overly rigorous schedule that falls apart. If daily prayer is not part of your normal routine, turning to God each day in a small but heartfelt way is better than a mountain of intentions left unattended.
Reading a prayer and reflecting each morning can be a helpful any day and especially during Lent. It connects us to the Word, and reflections help us connect scripture to our daily lives and interactions with others. Below are some links to some Lenten materials to help your prayer this season.
- For Lent – Saginaw Little Books
- Lent and all seasons- Give Us this Day
- Lent and all seasons- The Magnificat
A central meaning or purpose in fasting is to create an emptiness inside us, a space for God to fill. I’m not sure giving up chocolate for Lent embodies an “adult spirituality” of fasting in the second half of life. This would certainly be a challenge for children but as adults, does it really cost us that much or invite us to a deeper experience of sacrifice for God? Take a look at this prayer composed by a dear friend of mine. It has helped me to think about fasting in new and more meaningful ways during Lent. You could pick a few things from this list to pray on and work with during Lent, and still give up chocolate if you like.
Fasting and Feasting
Fast from hatred and feast on liking and loving.
Fast from anger and feast on patience, acceptance and peace.
Fast from self-rejection and feast on being yourself, simply and truthfully.
Fast from chaos and feast on living in ordinary and quiet time.
Fast from darkness and despair and feast on light and hope.
Fast from resentment and a clenched fist and feast on letting go and letting God.
Fast from being a victim and feast on being a good Samaritan.
Fast from indifference and feast on caring and compassion.
Fast from hurting and feast on healing yourself and others.
Fast from giving-up or giving in and feast on giving to…
Fast from words that are mean and feast on words that are gentle.
Fast from thoughts and actions that are negative and feast on that all that is positive.
Fast from all that separates you from God and feast on the Holy within you
Sr. Elaine Deasy R.S.M.
Giving alms to the poor is another ancient tradition of the Lenten season. Beyond what monetary support you give to your parish or congregation, you might consider choosing a charity you could help out on a regular basis during the Lenten season. This could be with some financial support or, the gift of your time which adds the element of relationship with the giving. Again, it’s less about the amount of money or time, and more about the intentions of the heart in the giving.