We all grew up knowing that there were three intertwined actions observed during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. In my family the focus was on SACRIFICE: We gave up meat on Ash Wednesday, and only ate one regular meal that day. In “those” days we still abstained from meat on every Friday of the year, so that was no different. In addition, we gave up something we cherished. For some it was chocolate; perhaps a favorite TV show, etc.
What about PRAYER? We certainly observed all the Lenten church traditions. We faithfully received our ashes on Ash Wednesday. We never missed Sunday Mass. We went for a portion or all of the Good Friday service. Beyond that, however, we really didn’t focus on PRAYER. My parents were not really equipped to lead us in a rich prayer life. They didn’t know to speak of Lent as a time to focus on change. We never spoke of personal conversion or renewal. Much later, as an adult, I begin to fully understand the rich opportunity for renewal, for “point in time” assessment and reflection on change. In Lent God calls us to this contemplation and response.
And that ALMSGIVING thing? The definition of almsgiving is “giving materially to another in need.” My parents gave to church through good times and bad, treating that as a high priority always. They gave us an unwavering example of outreach; recognizing need and responding as best they could. Several years ago my friend Sheryl decided that rather than give up something for Lent, she would add a little more giving of herself. This could be through her volunteer work as an ombudsman for Catholic Charities, advocating for long–term care residents. What a beautiful act, to enhance prayerful reflection and renewal.
One potentially fruitful exercise of giving, incorporating renewal and prayer, is to write down your thoughts on legacy. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want to give to the community that has accompanied you and your family on your faith journey? Perhaps start with your parish. Would you like to plan a permanent gift, contributing to the FOREVER VALUE of this nurturing village? Did you or your children attend a Catholic school that made an impact? Saint Mary parish and its school in Los Gatos will FOREVER be a part of our family. We will recognize that contribution in our lives by a permanent endowed gift, allowing our family to support them FOREVER. I encourage you to try the exercise of actually writing down a list of the ministries that were formative in your life. Know that a permanent gift of any amount is a beautiful way of recognizing that contribution.
SACRIFICE, PRAY, GIVE, and then at Easter REJOICE, feel the real presence of the Risen Christ. Let yourself be overwhelmed by gratitude, and let that propel you to give of yourself, in all ways.
For more information, please visit www.cfoscc.org, or call (408) 995-5219.