By Lou S.
Lent is fast approaching and now is the time to start preparing for it.
Don’t be caught off guard and left making weak or trivial Lenten resolutions and sacrifices in an effort just to have something quickly. Remember, that Lent or any penitential season, like Advent can be fully taken advantage of by performing three practices: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
If your prayer life is already healthy and robust, that’s great! Keep it up! But during Lent, find ways to increase your daily prayers, even if only by a few minutes each day. Perhaps by praying certain novenas for people in your life and an extra decade of the rosary for the conversion of sinners.
FASTING AND ABSTINENCE
This one can be confusing for some people. Fasting isn’t about giving something up, it’s actually about depriving yourself of food, specifically. On all Fridays throughout the year, Catholics are still required to abstain from meat. However, if that isn’t possible or you elect not to, then the abstinence must be replaced by extra prayers and/ or good works. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 (with exceptions for expectant women, for example) are required to fast. We do this by having only one full meal that day and two smaller meals that, added together, do not amount to a full meal. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, fasting serves three purposes, which are of particular importance during Lent: 1. To conquer lust: First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Corinthians 6:5-6): “In fasting, in chastity,” since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For…lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink. So, this act of denial helps us to gain temperance in all areas of our life.
2. To help our minds rise above material things and contemplate heavenly realities: Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related of Daniel (Daniel 10) that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks.
So, when we are not concerned or preoccupied with material things like food or drink, we can more easily turn our attention and focus towards God.
3. To atone for our sins: wherefore it is written (Joel 2:12): “Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.” The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon: “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.”
So, by putting ourselves through some bodily pains and discomforts, we can make effective acts of penance and reparations for our sins.
Almsgiving is not the same as your regular weekly tithing. No. It is going above and beyond the minimum to the point where it may actually sting a bit. I’m not saying that it needs to be done to the point of your own financial ruin, no. But what I am saying is that, it should be seen as a tangible sacrifice. If there isn’t some personal discomfort in doing it, then what are you actually meriting? Sacrifice is meant to be uncomfortable. It’s through this discomfort, yet open willingness and joy of doing it for the sake of God, that we reap the benefits.
Not sure who to give to or what organizations are safe? The Lepanto Institute is a good starting point. They have a page that list organizations that are safe or not safe to donate to in terms of upholding Catholic faith and morals.
Lastly, Cross and Shield offers a couple free resources to help make your Lent a success.
The first is our free “Bill of Lent”. We offered this for the first time last year with great success. Perhaps you downloaded as copy. If so, thank you! Regardless, here is a slightly updated version for Lent 2022. It includes helpful tips and suggestions on formulating good AND achievable Lenten resolutions and habits. Feel free to make copies, however sending folks directly to our site to obtain copies is very much appreciated as it helps tremendously with our website rankings. Click below to download:
Next, is an entire copy in PDF format of Saint Thomas Aquinas’ “Meditations for Lent’. I have found this small book to be a wonderful resource for Lent. It begins on Septuagesima Sunday and continues through Easter Sunday. You can download it to your tablet, smartphone or PC or even print the entire book out, but that would require a lot of paper! Click below to download:
Meditations for Lent
Lent can seem quite daunting to many people, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With just a bit of planning ahead anyone can have a successful and fruitful Lent filled with many graces.
I hope you found this little blog post helpful and if you did, I would love to hear about it or any comments or suggestions you may have.
Download a printable PDF version of this article HERE.