During Lent we take up practices that help us to become aware of and responsive to the needs of others. The three traditional practices of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. A commitment to these practices during Lent leads to an awareness of God and conversion of the heart. Here are some suggestions on how to incorporate the traditional Lenten practices into your daily life.
Prayer can help us to become more responsive to those who suffer. Find ways to pray often during Lent, focusing on the needs of those who are the victims of injustice. Here are a couple of suggestions.
1. Gather with your family to look through newspapers and news magazines, or browse the Internet to identify injustices occurring throughout the world. Select one injustice, learn about the causes of the injustice, and pray for those who are affected by it. Keep track of developing news about the situation and pray together before dinner or bedtime and at Mass as well. Here is a possible prayer:
God our Father, we know that you hear the cries of all those who suffer. Hear us as we pray for those who suffer unjustly so that their plight might be relieved. We pray also for their oppressors that they will have a change of heart and see the error of their ways. May they use their power for the good of all. We pray for ourselves that we might have the compassion and the courage to do whatever we can to alleviate the suffering and to address the causes of that suffering. We ask you this through Christ, our brother. Amen.
2. Read aloud one of the Church’s Readings for Lent with your family before one meal each week during Lent. You can find a list of the readings at www.usccb.org/nab/index.htm.
Fasting can help us recognize our bad habits and overcome them. It can help us live with an awareness of our dependence on God’s love. Here are two ways you can incorporate fasting into your life during Lent.
1. Choose at least one meal each week of Lent at which you will eat less food than normal. Perhaps you can have a simple dinner of soup and bread. At that meal be especially aware that many people will go without a meal this day. Fasting is a means of expressing solidarity with those who are suffering around the world. Later that day when you feel hungry, use that sensation as a reminder to pray for those who have little food.
2. Fast from spreading gossip about others. We are often tempted by our own righteousness to want to say hurtful things about others to make us feel better about ourselves. Gossip dehumanizes people and renders us more likely to treat others without respect. When you feel the desire to speak negatively about others, pray instead for those you may have hurt with gossip. Pray for a more generous heart.
We can become more like Jesus during Lent by being generous. With your family select a charitable organization and collect donation money. You may want to select an organization that addresses the injustices you identified earlier as part of the “Prayer” aspect of Lent. Here are some suggestions for collecting money.
1. Put a jar or container on the kitchen table. Contribute a set amount of money, determined by your family, each day of Lent.
2. Give up buying junk food and contribute that money to the jar.
3. If you have young children who cannot contribute money, let them contribute by decorating the jar or container.
4. Hold a yard sale and contribute the proceeds to the collection.
5. Invite friends to join your family in contributing to the charity.