During Lent, as we prepare for the Lord’s Passion, death and resurrection, the Church calls us to examine our lives, turn away from sin, and renew our commitment to the Gospel message. We do this by focusing on three areas: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Some years it is clear what we should do when it comes to our Lenten practices, and other years it isn’t. We may struggle to know what will best help us to grow in holiness, especially in one of the three areas.
One friend recently confided that almsgiving is a tough one for her these days. “I barely have enough to pay basic bills, so it’s hard to know how and what to give to others.” Another friend mentioned that fasting already comes easy as she has a very clean diet, practices intermittent fasting, and is naturally moderate about food and drink. “I probably need to give something else up, but I’m not sure what.”
So what should you do if you’re still struggling to figure out what to give up, give away, or pray? Here are a few ideas.
If fasting from food and drink is not much of a sacrifice for you, consider fasting from something that may be more challenging. Many people today decide to give up one or more social media platforms that they frequent. Others give up entertainment like watching favorite shows or movies.
Instead of giving up a particular food, consider doing a bread and water fast on Fridays if your health allows for it. Or fast from super hot showers, or some other habit or pleasure you are used to.
You can also make a special effort to fast from your favorite vices. For instance, if being impatient or speaking unkindly about others is a sin you struggle with regularly, resolve to give this up during Lent and beyond. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.
If prayer is difficult because you are busy, distracted, or just out of the habit, consider doing any of the following:
- Reading a passage of the Bible each day.
- Making a Holy Hour once a week at a nearby parish.
- Praying a Rosary every day (or even just a decade if a whole Rosary is too intimidating ).
- Doing an examination of conscience before you go to bed.
- Praying before all your meals.
- Committing to daily meditations with Our Sunday Visitor, Hallow, or Word on Fire.
It’s not about overloading yourself with new prayer commitments, but devoting a little more time to your relationship with God to speak to Him and hear Him more clearly.
Another prayer practice that is ideal for Lent is this terrific idea.
So many of us feel strapped financially these days, and there is great need all around us. But the invitation to give alms is a biblical practice that enlarges our soul, helps us to rely more on God, and makes real the fact that we are indeed our brother’s keeper.
If giving money is tough this year, maybe you need to re-imagine what it can look like. Rather than a larger amount given to one or two deserving causes, or giving more to your parish — all good things to do, of course — consider thinking outside the box a bit…
What if this year you give just a little bit to everyone who asks? Every fundraiser you come across? Every person who begs from you on the street? Maybe each time it’s just $5 or $10, which may not be much, but it adds up and means a lot to the person who needs it.
Of course, Lent is also a good time to give in other ways — your time, your talent, clothing or home goods you don’t need. The spirit of giving can penetrate your entire Lenten season if you ask the Holy Spirit to inspire and guide you.
As long as Lent lasts, it’s never too late to decide on new practices, try something different, or change things up. The point of Lenten disciplines is to recommit ourselves to the Lord, to turn away from sin, and to have our hearts changed.