Tomorrow is Septuagesima Sunday*–in the Old Calendar. Kind of a funny name, no? It means that we’re on the threshold of Lent. Are you ready?
Septuagesima, Sexagesima, & Quinquagesima Sundays
In the Old Calendar, the three Sundays prior to Ash Wednesday were specifically dedicated to preparing one for Lent, and they have 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. Tomorrow, we’ll be at Septuagesima.
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 the 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! Let’s start preparing.
The 3 Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, & Almsgiving
During these fore-lenten Sundays, my husband and I like to begin preparing for Lent. We take a look at the classic 3 pillars of lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Below I’ll offer a few thoughts for you all to consider.
- Do you set aside a time to pray, every single day? If not, what’s stopping you?
- For those of you who are married, are you praying with your spouse? Every day?
- Or how about learning to pray the breviary? Lauds? Compline?
- For those of you with children, are you praying with them every day?
- How about a daily family rosary?
- Fathers, are you blessing your children every day?
- 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 other 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. Give up one meal a week. If you’re accustomed to weekly fasting, try two days a week.
But NOT if you’re pregnant or nursing. Goodness, mothers, be careful with this one. I’ve written about it before. Here.
This one’s a little tricky, as every family is in a different place financially.
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% and so on.
A true tithe would be a full 10% of your income, however. (The word tithe means one tenth.) If you really want a challenge, and are already tithing 10% of your income, then give 10% of your total income before taxes. And tithe that bonus too.
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.
And Lastly, a Lenten Challenge
Have you ever wondered what it was like for most Catholics throughout the history of our Church to pray the Mass? I mean, what was it like for St. Catherine of Siena to receive the Eucharist? Or which Mass inspired the great writings of St. Thomas Aquinas? Or the great missionaries? Or St. Therese the Little Flower? Or Padre Pio?
For nearly 2000 years Catholics have been worshipping the same way at the Latin Mass, and if you’ve got one near you, check it out. Don’t worry about not understanding everything. Who cares, you know? Everyone has to start somewhere.
Some of you, however, may not have access to any Mass or Sacraments at all, and my heart breaks for you. Truly. Just the other day I received an email from a gentleman in South Africa. They are starving for Truth there. For that matter, people are starving for Truth everywhere. In Canada, too. For example, there’s this piece written by one of my favorite writers at OnePeterFive, Dan Millette. My heart breaks for his family. What a difficult situation.
In any event, God does know of your particular situations, and He cares.
May God bless you all this Lent.
*Want more about Septuagesima Sunday? Click HERE for a piece at New Liturgical Movement