Pray, fast, give alms during Lent - Catholic Courier
Matthew H. Clark Matthew H. Clark

Pray, fast, give alms during Lent

It seems hardly possible, dear friends, that we are just a few days away from the beginning of another Lent. As we anticipate Ash Wednesday and the holy season that follows, I promise you my daily prayer and ask for yours that Lent will be a time of real conversion for us all, and that we will prepare well to celebrate the Easter Feast.

As we near this time of grace, I want to make a few simple suggestions for your Lenten prayer and practice. If you already have made some decisions about how you will approach this graced time, by all means go ahead with your plans. But if you are still thinking about how you will honor the season, you might want to think about one or more of the following:

1) Prayer. The weeks of Lent are a time of final and intense preparation for those who are preparing for baptism at the Easter Vigil and for those persons, already baptized, who will seek full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. It is our responsibility to pray for them and for those who have been generous enough to accompany them on their journeys of faith.

In many parishes the pictures and names of those preparing for the Easter sacraments are posted to remind parishioners to pray for them. I hope not only that you will pray for them by name, but also that you will include in your affection and prayer all those in our diocese who are traveling the same path. I always take great delight during the Rites of Election in telling catechumens and candidates that they are being held in prayer by the whole community.

Prayer for these individuals is a good reminder to ourselves that we too are called to become more like Christ. That often means that we need to put aside habits of life or dispositions of spirit that blind us to that call or so sap our spiritual energies that we have neither the strength nor courage to respond to God’s grace. And so, we rightly pray for ourselves, asking God to flood us with God’s own strength and light and wisdom.

2) Almsgiving. Almsgiving is a classic Lenten practice. There are, of course, many ways to observe it. One form that seems fruitful for people contains the following elements: a) a small sum set aside each day toward an Easter gift to a worthy cause; b) a daily moment of prayer for the cause selected; and c) an effort to make better known the good work of the cause that attracts your interest.

A variation on the almsgiving theme that many find attractive is the gift of time and/or talent for the encouragement or relief of others. Whatever the shape, form or direction of the almsgiving, it is meant as a reminder that all good gifts come from God and that we are truly grateful for them only when we share them with others.

3) Fasting. It never hurts to consider our use of God’s good gifts. We all know from experience that we can misuse or fail to appreciate them. And more and more we realize that such failure is not only personal but can also be a failure of our society. Yes, you or I can use too much food or alcohol. We can neglect the ordinary means to safeguard our health such as good nutrition and proper exercise. Lent is a reminder, even an invitation, to do something about that. And do something we can, depending on our needs, priorities and opportunities. We can cut down on that portion or do those laps or forego that treat that carries tons of calories and little nutritive value.

Certainly, larger issues like pollution, deforestation, spending too much on weapons and spending too little to relieve human misery are much harder issues with which to deal. Yet we can inform ourselves about such things. We can communicate our convictions to public officials and policy makers. We can encourage others to do the same. And, God willing, we can hope to make a difference.

I hope that whatever you choose to do by way of Lenten observance will be a blessing to you. Please pray for me, as I will for you, that we will all grow in love of God, neighbor and self during the weeks of Lent and celebrate the Easter Feast with truly joyful hearts.

Peace to all.

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