Reprinted with permission from the March 2017 issue of the Parish Bulletin of International Catholic Stewardship Council.
The Lenten season prepares us for the celebration of Easter. It is a time for Christians to embrace prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in a more concerted way. For some it is a time of healing, an opportunity to repair their spiritual brokenness. For others it is simply a good time to cultivate their spiritual lives in a more disciplined manner. The goal of Lenten practices: to prepare ourselves to enter into the paschal mystery of Holy Week with a more humble spirit and determination to follow Jesus Christ. This ancient triad of prayer, fasting and almsgiving offers wonderful spiritual benefits. Being a good steward of these gifts by planning ahead and following through is essential to having a fruitful Lenten experience.
For some it is a time of healing, an opportunity to repair their spiritual brokenness. For others it is simply a good time to cultivate their spiritual lives in a more disciplined manner.
Prayer: What greater gift could we give ourselves during Lent than the gift of prayer? The fruits of developing a disciplined time of prayer are bountiful. Make plans for a prayer time each day. Do not wait until you “find time” but make a time of prayer your priority. This will involve sacrifice on your part – perhaps giving up some television viewing time, using part of your lunch hour, or getting up in the morning earlier than usual. Along the way, spend some time in extra prayer with the community: a weekday Mass, Stations of the Cross. Whatever you decide, resolve to spend more time with the Lord.
Fasting: Christian stewards understand that all they receive, including the bountiful food and drink that is often taken for granted, ultimately comes from the Lord. By denying ourselves food for a time, we are reminded in physical and emotional ways of the Lord’s generosity. As we fast, thoughtlessness is replaced by gratitude and mindfulness of the needs of others. The ancient practice of fasting also conditions us for greater spiritual practices. Incorporate some aspect of fasting from food or drink into your Lenten practice, something in addition to the sacrifices we make on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
Almsgiving: This spiritual discipline heightens our sense of generosity. Just as an increase in prayer and fasting leads us to be more grateful for the gifts we’ve received, and promotes a greater awareness of others, almsgiving helps us to reach out to others in gratitude. Just as we don’t “squeeze in” time to pray during Lent, we also don’t scrutinize our checkbook when being generous with others. Again, make a plan and let a meaningful sense of sacrifice be your guide.
Thank you for this new day, and
another opportunity to give the
traditions of Lent genuine meaning
in my life.
Help me to be a good steward of
this day; to use it wisely to reflect
on my words and deeds, review
my habits, and correct my faults.
Inspire me to live as Jesus did, to
embrace his cross, and live the
great paschal mystery in a way that
gives hope to others.
Be merciful to me this day. Forgive
me my failings and weaknesses.
Cultivate in me a humble and
Prepare me for the renewal of
my baptismal vows, today and
throughout the season of Lent; so
that at Easter I may truly rejoice in
Christ Jesus, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.