Here we are, on the threshold of this great season of Lent. Have you thought about it yet?
Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays
In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent. They have funny, Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima. They mean, seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth, which is to say, it’s roughly 70 days until Easter, 60 days until Easter, and fifty days until Easter. Today, we’re at Quinquagesima Sunday. Clear as mud?
Well, in the Old Calendar during the three weeks prior to the actual start of Lent, priests wore violet vestments and certain elements of the Mass were dropped, like the Gloria and Alleluia. (In fact, there’s a sweet tradition of physically burying the Alleluia, only to dig it up again at Easter.) All of these things were meant to get you thinking. Sober up, people! How are you going to prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
(Want more on information on these pre-Lenten Sundays? Click HERE for a New Liturgical Movement article.)
The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving
If you’re not already setting aside a specific time every day to pray, you need to. I am the mother of six little children. If I can do it, you can. And if it’s at all possible, make that prayer time the first thing you do every day. Get up before everyone else. If you’re new to this, start small. Start now.
For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse? Every day? If not, start small. Start now.
Fathers, are you blessing your children every day? If not, do it. You represent Christ in your household, and your family needs you to set the example. (Bless your wife too; she needs it.)
Are you accustomed to daily prayer already? Consider adding Night Prayer. There’s an excellent book, The Office of Compline, by Fr. Samuel Weber. It’s in both Latin and English. And it’s beautiful. (Click HERE for it on Amazon.)
For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day? If not, do it. Consider a family rosary.
And finally, go to confession. At bare, rock-bottom minimum, go at least once this season. If you’d like a challenge, consider going every week or so.
Fasting is the second great pillar of Lent. In our culture, this one gets ignored a lot. And we need it. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Mark 9:28-29, “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast [the demon] out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.””
Do you have something in your life that needs casting out? Try fasting. Do you know of someone who really needs Jesus? Try fasting.
If you’ve never done this before, start small. Start now. Give up one meal a week.
There are many ways to be creative with this one, by the way. If you’re pregnant and cannot fast, consider eating one meal in a way that you wouldn’t like. For example, you’re having an egg sandwich for breakfast, eat all three pieces separately – toast by itself, egg by itself, and cheese by itself. It’s not as fun. You get the idea.
This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially. If you’d like a little more on what the Church officially says, click HERE for Jimmy Akin’s take on tithing and giving.
The point during Lent is to work towards the virtue of generosity – the virtue of being unattached to material goods and in gift giving. During Lent, one may look at it in two ways:
- How can our family work towards giving more of our total income?
- In what ways am I able to make a monetary sacrifice during Lent to benefit a charity?
The first one…again, as each family is different, this one cannot have some uniform answer. Wherever you’re at on this one, take a step towards giving more of your total income. If you’re currently giving 1%, try 2%. For those of you who’d like a stricter guideline, I once read somewhere to shoot for 5% of your income to your local church, 4% to any charity, and 1% to the Bishop. This would be a true 10% tithe. (The word tithe means one tenth.)
If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then consider giving 10% of your total income before taxes.
The second point…during Lent make an additional monetary sacrifice. For example, maybe you are accustomed to dining out a few times each month. Consider not eating out, and expressly give that budgeted money away to your favorite charity.
In the end, God cannot be outdone in generosity, and He will reward you! Just take the first step.
May God bless you abundantly this Lent!