During the season of Lent, Catholics traditionally devote special efforts to deepen their relationship with the Lord in three areas: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. Throughout Lent, as we remember the great sacrifice Christ made, Christian stewards examine their own sacrificial giving. We do this to emulate Christ, to gain spiritual maturity, and share with others. Our Lenten efforts are not like short-term New Year’s resolutions, designed as a forty-day weight-loss plan or a self-help project. Instead, they embody the idea of sacrifice in the pursuit of holiness. Here are a few ideas to inspire your own thoughts and to make Lenten sacrifices that might truly be life-changing. (Hint: a Lenten journal may help in noticing and recording your growth.)
PRAYER • Dedicate yourself to an extra 10-15 minutes of daily Scripture reading. Participate in an extra community prayer activity weekly: perhaps a daily Mass, the Stations of the Cross, or an Evening Prayer at a nearby parish. • Find an online prayer source (www. sacredspace.ie is a good example) where you can spend 10-15 minutes of prayer at your computer during each busy day.
FASTING • Fast from negative thoughts of others. Be conscious of mean or petty mental messages. • Perhaps fasting from all screen time would prove impractical. But set yourself a limit. Sacrifice some aspect of Internet browsing, television watching, or texting, and do something constructive with the time saved. • Refraining from food or drink is often a fasting choice. Make sure you’re doing it for the right sacrificial reasons and perhaps donate the money saved to a charity such as Catholic Relief Services. • Fast from the need to always be right. Spend more time listening to or reading the opinions and ideas of those with whom you may not think you agree.
ALMSGIVING • A wise man was asked, “How much should I give?” His reply: “More.” Stretch your charitable giving this Lent. Sacrifice a need or want to give more money to the offertory collection at Mass. • Set aside a few hours of Lent to be with the poor, to accompany them on their journey. Serve at a food kitchen or help out at a food bank. Promise yourself you will enter your “discomfort” level sometime this Lent. • Check out your closet. Resolve not to add to it during Lent, but instead find things to give to a charity. A real challenge: don’t just give away the clothes of which you’ve tired. Part with something you still love!