This Sunday is a good time to take stock of how Lent is going for me. We’re at around the halfway point. Even if I haven’t stayed completely on track so far, there’s still some road ahead of me to focus on the season and on ways I’m being called to turn back to God.
The three pillars of Lent are what keep me oriented: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. When I was a child, this was pretty straightforward: no chocolate until Easter; a Hail Mary every morning; and a dime a day set aside for the poor.
It’s gotten more complicated over the years.
- Fasting is a tough one: of course it’s hard to give up coffee / alcohol / sweets / Netflix, but the giving up doesn’t always bear fruit. Sometimes it becomes about willpower rather than making room for God. In recent years, I’ve tried to fast from other things that have too prominent a role in my life: things like being judgmental, or being selfish, or using hurtful words, or complaining.
- Prayer that satisfies can be elusive in good times and in hard times. As we do with any habit, it’s all about finding a few moments to pray every day and sticking with it.
- During lean times, it’s a challenge to find ways to share material goods with those in need, but thanks to activities like community and parish food drives, there is always a manageable way to give something that will help someone who has less.
Over time, I’ve started to see the interconnections between these three key Lenten actions. Fasting from certain foods or attitudes moves the focus off myself. Prayer opens my heart to the needs of others. Almsgiving allows me to share material things with people who are struggling. Recognizing that I am able to give to others encourages me to fast from spending money on things I don’t need. That means I have more to give to worthy causes. Giving calls me into a space of prayer where I thank God for my blessings and ask God to help and heal others. One action leads into another, like a kind of dance.
As Pope Francis said in his 2021 Lenten message:
Lent may be half over, but it’s a good time to renew our commitment to these three actions that are found at the heart of the season.
Anne Louise Mahoney, Managing Editor, Novalis. As a lifelong bookworm, she loves working with authors on books and other resources that help readers of all ages to learn about and grow in their faith in today’s world.