Next Wednesday, March 2, the Church will celebrate Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of another Lenten season. During our 40-plus day journey of Lent, we are called to live with greater focus on Christian practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This Lent, I would like to invite you to consider incorporating into these tenets some of the Mission Steps outlined in my September 24, 2021, Pastoral Letter, Journeying Together: With Jesus on the Path of Faith & Hope.
St. John Damascene defines prayer as “the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” Many people are unsure where to begin in prayer; others fail to come in humility and perhaps leave disappointed when the good things they sought did not seem to be given. St. Paul offers wisdom regarding prayer, especially for those unsure how to approach the throne of Grace, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
Here are some unique ways to put our faith into practice and enter into prayer this Lenten season:
- Regularly attend Mass. The celebration of the Mass is the Church’s most perfect prayer. Within the confines of the Sacred Liturgy, the faithful will find all four basic elements of Christian prayer: (1) Prayer of Adoration/Blessing, (2) Prayer of Contrition/Repentance, (3) Prayer of Thanksgiving/Gratitude, and (4) Prayer of Supplication/Petition/Intercession.
- Set a time for regular Eucharistic Adoration daily or weekly to increase Eucharistic devotion. Each parish should offer expressed devotion to the Eucharist, especially with its great tie to fostering and birthing priestly and religious vocations.
- Regularly pray for the gift of discernment so you may clearly hear and be prepared to respond to God’s call. During Lent, make prayer a priority by setting aside time every day to offer a Rosary, read the Bible, or spend a few quiet moments sharing with God your heart and listening for His loving, merciful, and kind response.
While Fast and Abstinence from food are necessary and important aspects of Lenten observance, there is yet another way of viewing Fasting as a way to offer sacrifice and furthermore link ourselves all the more closer to Christ’s suffering on the Cross.
Here are a few suggestions for uniting yourself to Christ in a special way this Lent:
- Continue to learn about the faith by participating in ongoing catechesis and spiritual formation. What do you know about the true practice of Christian fasting? Take some time to learn the origins and how you may incorporate this practice into not only your Lenten journey but also beyond.
- Time is precious and it can be difficult for busy families to make time for extra activities. This Lent consider fasting from one of your favorite pastimes or activities and offer that time to building a stronger faith community both at home and at your parish.
- Use these 40-days to reengage and renew a sense of lay service in parish ministries, in your own hearts as well as helping to foster this in your parish. Come together with others to brainstorm ways to provide parish ministry opportunities that allow for various individuals to participate in their faith more actively, through service to their parish and community at large.
Almsgiving, sharing with those in need, can refer to spiritual and physical needs. It is a critical Corporal Work of Mercy to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and I encourage you always to make this part of how you demonstrate the call to charity in your life. This year, I also ask you to prayerfully contemplate how you, your family, or your parish can assist those who are poor in spirit or thirsty to know Christ.
Here are a few ideas from the Mission Steps for your consideration to do on your own or in partnership with your parish:
- Take a deeper look at your personal gifts and talents to engage in our faith communities.
- Help young people in our parishes and Catholic schools encounter the Real Presence by ensuring that they have ready access to the Eucharist and through evangelizing with the examples of saints, such as Blessed Carlo Acutis, and through Eucharistic miracles.
- Focus parish efforts on greater hospitality, invitational awareness, and create opportunities to invite others to come to church. Imperative to this is the role of the laity in inviting others to Mass, as well as offering newcomers opportunities to connect with the parish community.
As I shared throughout the Journeying Together letter, our faith needs to be shared through our daily lives and manifested in how we live each day. Let us move forward as an “Easter People,” especially during Lent and our Easter celebration, ever hopeful that God is at work in the world and ever aware of our responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and build the Church as the People of God.
May your Lenten 2022 journey be one of renewed hope and excitement for knowing, living, and sharing your Catholic faith.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha