Get Serious This Lent

It’s time for this years annual lent pep talk.

The past 2 years I have run my “Don’t be a wimp post“.  Reading the Mass collects for this season one is often encountering the phrase “this holy fast”. Many, fast only on the two days when it’s required. It seems to me we ought to do more than the bare minimum.

Lent is a penitential season. It is observed with 3 traditional disciplines which are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let’s take a brief look at each of them and you can decide how to incorporate them into your lent.

Prayer– Prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God, and as such takes on a number of different forms. We can divide it into public (liturgy) and private (devotional), as well as vocal and meditative/contemplative.

Public prayer consists of liturgy, it includes the Mass as well as the Divine Office (even when said alone, by the individual, it is the public prayer of the Church).

Private prayer includes a number of things, some of which which are crypto liturgical, or which originated as substitutes for the Divine Office (when books were very expensive and many laymen were illiterate). Including things such as the Rosary, Chaplet of Divine mercy, Stations of the Cross and Novenas.

Mental prayer can and should accompany both private and public prayer but I will mention additionally Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is the slow meditative reading of scripture, letting it speak to you. This is different from bible study.

If you are unsure what to introduce for your Lenten practice I have the following suggestions. Adopt some sort of regular structure, if you can set a regimen it will prove better than randomly doing things. If you commute, that’s a good time to work some sort of prayer into your day without having to find space in your schedule. I would encourage laypeople to take up some part of the Divine Office (most of us don’t know what it is), compline is as a good start. If you find it confusing, don’t worry about getting everything right, just pray it as best as possible.

Fasting– Baring certain health conditions most of us can fast (one full meal and two small ones). The Church currently only requires fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The ancient practice is to fast on Friday (and Wednesday) all year and every weekday of Lent. Whatever you choose to do, it aught to be something you find challenging. Click on the link “Don’t be a wimp post” for more on this.

Almsgiving– Is giving to the poor. More broadly it is the works of mercy. Traditional catechetical formula categorizes the works of mercy as…

The corporal works

  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbour the harbourless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.

and spiritual works

  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offences willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead

Have a fruitful Lent.

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