Practicing Lenten disciplines has always been one of those spiritual activities from which many have shied away. Too often, when hearing friends tell me what they’re “giving up for Lent,” their intended sacrifices sound to me more like New Year’s resolutions that we don’t care much about. They are not genuine vehicles for self-reflection, much less opportunities for building intimacy with the divine through prayer and meditation. Certainly, stubborn bad habits can block one’s spiritual development, so there is merit in any rigorous effort to free oneself of such debilitating patterns during the season of Lent.
But, for now, let us focus on the desert … Jesus spent forty days and nights in the desert practicing fasting and prayer. Prayer is an important aspect of the Lenten season. Our parish communities offer multiple communal prayer opportunities. Let me suggest a couple of them:
1. Attend daily mass or attend mass as often as you can and receive Jesus in the Eucharist with reverence and devotion. By far the most powerful and efficacious prayer that we can offer to God is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
2. We will have Stations of the Cross every Friday at 12.00 Noon at St. Stephen and 6.30pm at Christ the King campus. You can also go to St. Stephen parish for private outdoor stations on Fridays until 6.00pm.
3. Attend the Parish Retreat (Feb. 25-Feb. 29). In addition to our retreat, we will also be sharing retreats offered in our deanery.
4. One form of prayer, highly recommended by Saint Ignatius is that of contemplation. Therefore, during Lent, it’s good to spend at least some time in front of an image, painting, depiction of Jesus hanging on the cross for love of you and me.
5. Mark your calendar for March 1st First Friday when we expose the Blessed Sacrament for an hour from 5pm to 6pm. Join your parishioners in adoring the Eucharistic Lord.
6. If you are an avid Movie person, rent religious movies and after watching it, have a family conversation about what that movie meant to you.
These are some suggestions that I want to recommend for you. The duration of forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for his ministry. Many will go through the motions and celebrations of Lent and Easter. However, I invite you to take the 40 days the same way as Jesus did.