Mon 28 Feb, 2011
Our dear Sister Lynn Marie shares these thoughts from a Benedictine Sister on Lent:
I love Lent. I know that’s not something you hear often, but I really do.
For us Lent is a time, as Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict states, to “wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times.”
These 40 days before Easter are for many Christians a special time set apart to prepare our hearts to commemorate again the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a time of conversion, a time to be intentional about our faith life and our Christian walk, a time to turn away from sin and return to God. In a way, it is a new start. It’s another chance to try to do “life” a little better – to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate, to ask forgiveness. It’s turning the page of your notebook of life to a fresh, clean blank sheet.
The Lenten theme is one of penitence. It is this atmosphere of repentance which some may perceive as negative, oppressive or depressing. I think it is just the opposite. For me, it is a blessing. Who else but our God lets us come to Him voicing all our faults, shortcomings, failures and sins and FORGIVES US? Repentance is our great privilege as Christians. It is in this spirit of penitence that the idea of “giving up something” enters into the picture. We do this not to receive forgiveness – that has already been given – but to show our sorrow for our sins and to show our gratitude to God.
The Gospel (Matthew 6:1-18) that is read on Ash Wednesday sets the tone for the whole season. In it, Jesus exhorts his followers to three things – almsgiving, fasting, and prayer. Alsmgiving keeps us attentive of our neighbor, fasting helps us master ourselves, and prayer brings us closer to God. These are the pillars of the Lenten season, and it is in these areas that we can try to increase our measure of service to God. Below are some suggestions that you might like to use as your offering to God.
PRAYER (these are suggestions to increase or deepen your prayer life)
- Set aside time for daily prayer
- Read some Scripture daily
- Try to attend daily Mass
- Pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet
- Form a prayer group and pray with others
- Read a biography or autobiography of one of the saints
- Meditate on the Passion of Christ
- Read a book on faith or spirituality
- Collect your spare change during Lent and give it to the poor
- If you are fasting from food, give the money you would have spent to a food bank
- Volunteer your time
- Do acts of kindness for others
- Give of yourself by spending time with someone who is lonely
- Share your faith by inviting someone to church with you
- Give of your love by forgiveness or a kind word
- Fast from eating between meals,
- Fast from candy, chips, or some other favorite “junk food”
- Fast from soda pop, coffee, or alcohol
- Fast from the Internet/Facebook/Twitter
- Fast from complaining
- Fast from unkind speech
- Fast from a bad habit (lazyness, nail biting, interrupting people)
As in the Gospel, Jesus tells that we are not to do these things in obvious and self-seeking ways but with a quiet and humble heart. The Rule of Benedict says that no monk should take on any form on penitence without the permission of the abbot. This is to prevent pride and a “see how holy I am” attitude and it is a way to help us stay accountable to the practice we have chosen.
It is hard to give up things we enjoy, and it is difficult to fit other things into our already busy schedules. I know from my own experience, after the first week or two of Lent, my good resolve has fallen by the wayside. The temptation is to say, “I’ve blown my perfect record no sense in trying to do this for the rest of Lent.” Don’t give up! Remember every time we begin again, we are turning back to God. We are blessed beyond measure to have a God who, like a loving father, welcomes His wayward children home again and again and again.
I hope you all have a blessed Lenten journey. May we all look forward to Easter with holy joy!
Learn more about Sister Lynn Marie at her blog.