Lent - Lenten Practices


Almsgiving

The world does not say to give; the world says to take, to collect, to receive, to want, to have more.  Christ's message is precisely the opposite:  "Give, and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will, in return, be measured out to you" (Luke 6:38).  This charitable expectation, based on the Lord's assertion in Luke 6:38, is similarly reflected in a well-know excerpt from the Prayer of Saint Francis:  "It is in giving that we receive."  When we give of themselves, through numerous capacities, this will allow us to realize that it is in our gratuitous generosity of spirit that we will ultimately find the energy to labor for the redemptive education of both ourselves and peers.

During Lent, we strive to remember the less fortunate through financial and material contributions.  Some people choose to refrain from certain activities, such as dining out or going to the movies, and give the money that would have been spent on these activities to the poor.  Almsgiving is another sign of our intention to avoid sin and to be more faithful to God.

Prayer

Jesus prayed to his Father constantly throughout the Gospels, specially in the most difficult moments:  "Then [Jesus] told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary" (Luke 18:1).  Jesus prayed all of the time, but especially when he as facing the trails of his imperative life.  Lent is a good opportunity to remind us that prayer gives us the strength that we need to persevere and grow closer to the Lord in the midst of our pursuits.  There are many ways to improve our prayer lives during Lent.  We renew our commitment to pray daily.  We attend Mass more often.  We read Scripture with greater frequency and care.  We pray the Stations of the Cross and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary.  We celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Through our prayer, we seek to become closer to God.


Fasting

The Lenten practice of fasting includes several aspects.  To fast is to refrain from food for a period of time in order to remember our dependence on God.  Another aspect of fasting is abstinence.  We stop eating certain foods, such as meat.  Two day as designated by the Church as days of fasting and abstinence - Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  On these days there is a limit of one full meal, two smaller meals, and nothing between meals for all people between the ages of 18 and 59.  Younger and older older people are encouraged to practice some form of fasting as well.  Besides Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence, on which we retrain from eating meat.  All who have reached their 14th birthday are asked abstain from meat on those days. Some people also choose to abstain from sweets or other specific foods during Lent as a sign of their sorrow for their sins.

Fasting is one of the most humbling experiences that anyone can undertake.  Our very human nature leads us to not want to fast, but to feast when the opportunity arises.  It is not surprising that the Latin term "festa/festus," the origin of such English terms as "feast," "Festal" and "festive," exhibits that the concepts of the feast and celebration are directly correlated.  It is our instinct to look forward to celebrating occasions, but fasting - for teachers and students alike - provides us with a reminder of several realities of life:  among the key ones, that we depend entirely on God, that suffering is a necessary part of our earthly existence, and that we must undergo a trail prior to receiving our reward.  When we are physically weary, as can occur within the third quarter, denying ourselves food may seem counter-intuitive, but is is a spiritually refreshing way to reorient our focus on the Kingdom of God.

 
St. Patrick's Church at Moody Air Force Base