PIOUS PRACTICES FOR LENTEvery Lent, Holy Mother The Church advocates certain pious practices that her children should perform to satisfy their requirements to do penance, to pray, to perform good works, to make reparation for their sins, and to further the apostolic work of the Church.
Our Lord tells us, as recorded in Scripture, "Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). And St. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Saviour with the ominous admonition, "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 3:2).With regard to prayer, St. Paul tells us to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17). And Our dear Lord advises us, "Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you." (John 16:23). Also He said, "If you abide in me [i.e., "live in Me," or "stay in the state of grace"], and my words abide ["live"] in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7). Further, Our Lord has said, "Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36). And in the Book of Judith we read, "Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers, if you continue with perseverance in fastings and prayers in the sight of the Lord." (Judith 4:11). Our obligation to do apostolic work, no matter who we are, is seen in the general admonition of St. John the Baptist, ". . .make straight the way of the Lord . . ." (In. 1:23; Is. 40:3). The Church has used this counsel in her Advent liturgy, so we know it applies to all—at least to the extent that all must pray and do penance for the success of the Church's missionary activity, help support it financially—and wherever possible take an active part in the conversion or reconversion of those we know.
The primary purpose of Lent, of course, is to help us become truly holy—and we should work toward this goal during Lent by extra prayer, penance, good works, almsgiving, attendance at Mass and reception of the Sacraments (the chief sources of grace).
SPECIFIC PRACTICES TO CHOOSE FROM
1. Abstinence: This is the giving up of something we like to eat, drink, smoke, use, etc. (All Catholics 14 and over are currently required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.) We can abstain from (give up) meat on days other than those required, give up candy, sweets, dessert, pop, gum, coffee, tea, smoking, beer, wine, hard liquor, eating between meals, and/or our favorite foods and drinks, etc.
2. Fasting: This is still required by the Church of all those age 21 through 59 on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but it is something which most people can do every day during Lent (except Sunday, which was never a day of fasting). This was formerly required of all Catholics 21 through 59 years of age. The Catholic Church's traditional method of fasting is to take only one full meal per day, at which meat may be eaten (unless it is also a day of abstinence), plus 2 small meals that together do not equal the main meal and at which no meat is eaten, with nothing eaten between meals. This is a mild form of fasting, but one which leaves the person always a little on the hungry side and ever cognizant that he is depriving himself of his regular fare.
3. TV: We can drastically limit our TV viewing, give up favorite programs or eliminate it altogether.
4. Prayer:- The daily Rosary. Our Lady urgently requested the daily recitation of the Rosary (5 decades) during each of her appearances at Fatima. - The First Saturday devotion, requested by Our Lady at Fatima. With regard to this devotion, Our Lady revealed to Sr. Lucy of Fatima on December 10, 1925, "I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who on the First Saturday of 5 consecutive months shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite 5 decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for 15 minutes, while meditating on the 15 mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me." (A later revelation indicated that the Confession may be 8 days before or after the First Saturday and the meditation on the mysteries of the Rosary may be on as few as one of the mysteries and does not need to be performed before the Blessed Sacrament.).
- An extra Mass or more each week. The Holy Sarcrifice of the Mass is the greatest prayer there is.- A Holy Hour, once a week, twice a week, or each day. This is one of the most underrated devotions in the Church. Our Lord Himself has said, "Could you not watch one hour with me?" (Matt. 26:40). Granted, this was addressed to the Apostles in the Garden of Olives the night before He was crucified, but it can be applied to all of us generallyand how very, very few practice this powerful devotion! Archbishop Fulton Sheen made it the center of his daily devotions, after the Mass. - Pray for those in Purgatory. We have an obligation to pray for our relatives and for anyone we may have harmed by our sins. A Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament after Mass is extremely efficacious for the Poor Souls and can lead to the gaining of a plenary indulgence—all other conditions for this being fulfilled. - Pray for those who are in danger of dying without being in the state of Sanctifying Grace. Such prayers should be offered to Our Lady to apply as she desires, for she sees clearly who really needs the extra graces at any given time. - Pray for anyone you may have had the misfortune to lead into sin. - Pray for an end to abortion. - Pray for peace in the world. The Old Testament tells us, "The heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord: whithersoever he will, he shall turn it." (Prov. 21:1). Prayer can work miracles and change the hearts of even wicked rulers.
5. Go to Confession once a week: Frequent Confession is generally said to be once a month, but in Introduction to the Devout Life St. Francis de Sales recommends once a week, and St. Alphonsus Liguori says that anyone who is serious about saving his soul will go often, "at least once a week." Some Saints went every day; many went several times a week. Just prior to Vatican II, priests in the U.S.A. were advocating once a week and getting about 1/3 to 1/2 compliance by the people. This is one of the best ways to make progress in the spiritual life because we regularly stay focused on what we are doing wrong.
6. Examine your conscience every night: Review the day and what you did and did not do that might have displeased God; then, keep these things in mind for your next Confession.
7. Do penance: Our Lord has made it perfectly clear that penance is necessary for salvation. (See the quotes from Scripture above.) To Sr. Lucy of Fatima, He revealed that "The penance I now ask and require is that necessary for the fulfillment of My law and the performance of one's daily duties."8. Perform good works: - Visit the sick. - Visit people in nursing homes once a week. - Counsel, picket or pray at abortion clinics. - Join in the abortion rescue effort. - Take someone to Mass with you on Sundays. - Get someone with a marriage problem to see a priest. 9. Give alms: - Increase your donation at Church. - Give to cloistered monasteries and convents in your area. - Support good Catholic schools. - Support crisis pregnancy centers. - Support local soup kitchens. - Help those who are poor. 10. Do Apostolic work: - Take someone to Mass with you. - Take someone to Confession with you. - Invite someone to become a Catholic—start talking to him about it. - Get him to a priest for instruction. - Get a priest to visit a fallen-away Catholic, especially an elderly one. - Distribute Catholic books and booklets. (TAN has many titles that are discounted specifically for this purpose.) - Distribute prayer cards and leaflets. (TAN has over a dozen of these, drastically discounted for wide distribution, plus small flyers announcing Catholic books.) 11. Engage in spiritual reading: - Require yourself to do at least 15 minutes of reading from a good Catholic book each day. - Read your Bible at least 15 minutes each day. - Read from the life of a Saint for at least 15 minutes each day. (These are the heroes and heroines we should imitate.) 12. Consecrate your life to God and renew the consecration each day. Or, consecrate yourself to God through the Blessed Virgin Mary and read about and begin to practice "True Devotion to Mary." Read St. Louis De Montfort's book called True Devotion to Mary, one of the Church's greatest classics. REMEMBER: Lent is a holy season set aside by the Church during which we are recommended to do extra prayer, penance, sacrifice, good works and almsgiving, plus to frequent the Sacraments and attend Mass more often—all for the welfare of our souls. And we should all keep before our minds that many a pious practice begun during Lent has become a lifelong virtuous habit that has thereby helped to perfect those who have made a mere "humble beginning" during Lent.