Thu. Oct 22nd, 2020

The New Law practices the acts of religion: almsgiving, prayer and fasting, directing them to the ‘Father who sees in secret,’ in contrast with the desire to ‘be seen by men.’” – CCC #1969

Mardi Gras is over and we begin our annual retreat called Lent. We can approach this opportunity with open hearts, or ones not really open. We can pay little attention and then do the minimum that is required of us. Or we can embrace this as an opportunity to grow in our intimacy with God. And this needs to involve the three-fold practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. So often we get totally fixated on, “What are you giving up for Lent?”

But Lent is not just about fasting. It is also about prayer and almsgiving. We should focus on all three. They should fuel each other. My fasting should be supported by my prayer. My fasting should also help my prayer by helping me to remember to hunger for intimacy with God. It should also make me more keenly aware of the suffering of my brothers and sisters who are in need. Perhaps, what I give up in my fast can also be given somehow to those who are in greater need. Maybe we should ask people, “What are you doing for Lent?”

I would like to encourage each of you to make your Lenten resolutions. They should include what you are going to give up (fasting), what extra attention you may give your prayer life (most especially, if you could make it to daily Mass), and how you are going to give alms. Make sure that your resolutions are concrete. Don’t tell yourself, “I am going to pray more.” How will you know if you have done that? Rather, say something like, “I am going to make it to Mass on Mondays and to Stations of the Cross on Fridays.” Make sure that your resolutions are challenging (don’t give up lima beans), but make sure that the resolutions are reachable or realistic.

Next time, I will return to the discussion we began about truth.

— Pat Arensberg is the Director of the Office for Evangelization and Family Life. Email him at

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