With all that is transpiring within the Church right now, Catholic Christians may find it challenging to stay focused on our primary task — that of missionary discipleship, working to bring others to Christ. But what better time than the penitential season of Lent to wholeheartedly reclaim that mission?
Lent, with its focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, gives us an ideal opportunity to share the Faith with others, while also renewing our own commitment to the Church during difficult times.
Here are three ways to make this happen.
Prayer: Embrace a spiritual book
Lent is an ideal time to renew one’s prayer life, and spiritual reading can play an important role. Perhaps there is a volume by a spiritual master that you have been meaning to get to “one of these days.” Let this be your chance. And, even better, invite a friend to join you. Whether it’s St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul” or St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” our faith cannot help but be renewed when we read about the faith of others. If you prefer to focus on Scripture, read and journal through the Gospels and Psalms while spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Such an activity can help remind us that the Church is made up of so much more than the actions of some of her leaders, and it can also help bring others to the truth of Christ.
Fasting: Offering up our sufferings
Fasting is an integral part of the Lenten season. When we empty ourselves, we give God space to maneuver. We naturally find ourselves more in tune with his will. When we embrace even a small suffering, we align ourselves with the suffering Christ. And this results in a transformation that can’t help but be manifest to the outward world. At this challenging time for the Church, when we might be tempted to give in to frustration or anger, fasting also gives us an opportunity to redirect those sentiments. We can offer up whatever minor sufferings we may be enduring for the good of the Church and for its healing.
Almsgiving: Reconsider giving
With the Church in crisis, many parishes and dioceses have reported a downturn in financial giving. We have heard from many readers who have decided not to donate another penny to the Church until further steps have been taken toward reparation. But not to give at all, especially during Lent, is antithetical to the Gospel call. We are meant to shed our own worldliness and to care for the good of others. So if giving to the institutional Church is not an option, we strongly urge giving regularly to a Catholic charitable organization this Lent and encouraging others — without braggadocio — to do the same. Such a commitment will not only go toward helping those in need, it will do our own souls some good.
In this week’s In Focus about parish evangelization (online March 17), we are reminded that bringing others to Christ is not about creating a flashy program. Instead, it is first and foremost about continuing that basic work of the first disciples: praying, sacrificing and giving of one’s self for the good of others. It’s about choosing God over all else — and the joy that comes from that can’t help but be attractive to others. This Lent, through a focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, let us reclaim that joy in our own lives and then joyfully seek to share it with others.
OSV Editorial Board: Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young