Bring Lent to life: Look for opportunities to nourish your faith by praying, fasting, and giving Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Lent is a special time set aside by the Church to prepare for Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection through 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

There are many ways we can observe the Lenten season. In his message for Lent this year, Pope Benedict XVI asked us, especially in the context of this Year of Faith, to “meditate on the relationship between faith and charity: between believing in God — the God of Jesus Christ — and love, which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and which guides us on the path of devotion to God and others.”

Pope Benedict emphasizes that faith and charity are linked together. “Everything begins from the humble acceptance of faith (‘knowing that one is loved by God’), but has to arrive at the truth of charity (‘knowing how to love God and neighbour’), which remains for ever, as the fulfilment of all the virtues (cf. 1 Cor 13:13).”

Rekindling your faith

During Lent, the Holy Father encourages us to “spend precious time rekindling your faith in Jesus Christ.”  How do we spend time with Jesus?

With our friends and relatives, we realize that we have to spend time with them in order to nurture our relationship. It’s pretty hard to continue a friendship if we never communicate with each other!

The same is true of our relationship with God. It needs to be nurtured through regular contact. This might include daily time for prayer. My favorite opportunity for prayer is before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. Free from most distractions, I can concentrate on praying.

Attending Mass is another special way to encounter God. Of course, we should attend Mass on Sundays, but during Lent we might consider attending Mass more frequently — even every day if possible.

Praying the Rosary is always a good idea. The Mysteries of the Rosary offer us an opportunity to reflect on the life of Jesus, besides giving us a chance to pray for the intercession of His Blessed Mother.

We can pray with our co-workers (fortunately we can do this at the Catholic Herald office), with our family members, or with groups at our parishes. Many parishes offer special missions, talks, and prayer opportunities during Lent. (Check the Catholic Herald for information each week).

You might also consider going on a retreat during Lent. This week’s Catholic Herald provides information on many retreat centers in our diocese and the surrounding area.

Fasting — not just from food

Of course, we can fast and we should abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. But have we thought about fasting in other ways?

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) offers some wonderful reflections on Lent through CRS Rice Bowl (formerly called Operation Rice Bowl). I receive weekly reflections and suggestions on my e-mail. Sign up at

One of the suggestions given this year is to fast from “things that get between us and God.” We might consider changing some things that we do that prevent us from having a spiritually enriching relationship with God.

Giving to those in need

CRS also gives us suggestions on how we can honor Jesus’ call to serve those in need. We can give to so many needs in our communities and the world at large.

By saving money on extra food we don’t need, we can contribute to CRS Rice Bowl. CRS is doing so much to fight hunger throughout the world. Or we can give to the St. Vincent de Paul Society, to the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison, to Catholic Charities, and to our parishes and community food banks to help those in need.

As Catholic Relief Services says, let’s bring Lent to life through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — and help enrich our friendship with God.