A Journey towards Change
“Pray to your Father.” Lent calls us to pray. But prayer, Jesus teaches, is much more than saying words. “Go into your room, and close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.”
Prayer is our conversation with God. It is through prayer that we develop a closer, more intimate relationship with God. For those who have stopped praying, or pray with little fervor, God gives graces for praying again. Usually the graces come as we turn to prayers and practices already there: reflective reading of the Bible or other spiritual books, the Eucharist and the other sacraments, simple grace-filled prayers or the psalms. Also, the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or Breviary, is a form of prayer used by priests, deacons, nuns and some lay people to mark the rhythms of each day. Morning prayer, daytime prayer, evening prayer and night prayer keep us and our activities connected to God during the different times of day.
“When you fast do not look gloomy,” Jesus says. The prophet Isaiah insists that fasting without changing our behavior is not pleasing to God. Therefore, the goal of fasting is linked with prayer. The pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God, and prayer and fasting together brings us to what Lent is about – a deeper conversion. This Lent, let us try, with God’s help, to move closer to God’s sacrifice for us. Some reasonable abstaining from food, drink and entertainments can help us do that.
Give the money you saved on food to others in alms
Almsgiving is simply a response by us to God, a response that we have come to through prayer and fasting. It is an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given us, and a realization that in the Body of Christ, it is never just “me and God.” Giving alms, means making the needs of others a priority, especially the needy of our communities. And what shall we give? Some time, some of our talent, material resources, perhaps. We all have something to give.
Whatever we give, though, should be something of ourselves, something that costs us. Paradoxically, Jesus also teaches, when we give, we receive some blessing from God in return.
What shall we give to those in need this lent? In deciding, decide generously. After all, Jesus gave: “He loved us, and gave himself up for us.”
Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving during this Lenten season, with God’s grace we can overcome our self-centeredness and become more focused on God’s plan, leading us further on the path to holiness.
What Should I Do For Lent? Pope Francis' 10 Tips
Every year Catholics try to answer the age old question: What should I do for Lent? Well, who better to pick for as your Lenten spiritual director than Pope Francis? He has some great ideas for you!
Here we selected 10 of his best tips:
1. Get rid of the lazy addiction to evil
“[Lent] is a ‘powerful’ season, a turning point that can foster change and conversion in each of us. We all need to improve, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus we leave behind old habits and the lazy addiction to the evil that deceives and ensnares us.” – General Audience, March 5, 2014
2. Do something that hurts
“Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.” – Lenten Message, 2014
3. Don’t remain indifferent
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.” –Lenten Message, 2015
4. Pray: Make our hearts like yours!
“During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: ‘Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum’: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” – Lenten Message, 2015
5. Take part in the sacraments
“Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ.” – Lenten Message, 2015
“In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
“We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth ‘satisfies’ us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
"Fasting makes sense if it questions our security..." - Pope Francis
“Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calculated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of possessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
9. Help the Poor
“In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.” – Lenten Message, 2014
“The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.” – Lenten Message, 2014
You probably won’t be able to take huge steps forward in all of these areas. Instead, pick a couple that stand out to you and try to find practical ways to grow in your love of God and your love of your neighbor.
Which one of Pope Francis’ tips sticks out to you the most? Tell us in the comments below.