by Chris Offokansi
Dear friends, welcome to the Lent of 2012. This year I have the opportunity of sharing with you from my home country of Nigeria, where I have relocated. The challenges are much, sometimes electricity and the internet are erratic, but I will do the best to get these Reflections across to every person on the Mailing List.
As we approach this holy season, we see Christ our Savior go before us and urge us onward – he who has suffered, bids that we might share in his suffering so as to share also in his glory. The Good Lord desires that we be purified and made wholly acceptable to him, but he will not do this without us, for he wills that we should be true participants in our own sanctification.
The forty day’s fast, which we call Lent, is the Church’s preparation for Easter, and was instituted at the very commencement of Christianity. Our blessed Lord Himself sanctioned it by fasting forty days and forty nights in the desert; and though he would not impose it on the world by an express commandment, yet he showed plainly enough, by His own example, that fasting, which God had so frequently ordered in the old Law, was to be also practiced by the children of the new.
Pope Benedict XIV wrote (in the Constitution Non ambigimus of 10 June 1745): “The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.”
More than two hundred years have elapsed since this solemn warning of the Vicar of Christ was given to the world; and during that time, the relaxation he inveighed against has gone on gradually increasing. The sad predictions of Pope Benedict XIV are but too truly verified. More and more Christians today are becoming so worldly minded that they do not consider seriously a disciplined observance of Lent, even in its present mild form! Those nations, among whose people the spirit and practice of penance are extinct, are heaping against themselves the wrath of God, and provoking His justice to destroy them by one or other of these scourges – civil disorder, or conquest. In my own country there is an inconsistency, which must strike every thinking mind: there is a growing ease-loving and sensual generation, like the Ninevites of old.
Lent can be a great time for renewal and rededicating oneself to a fuller practice of faith. These daily meditations for Lent are provided to help enhance our Lenten discipline and devotions. I have tried to use alternative readings so that you may have an added benefit if you happen to attend daily Mass through the season. Each day also offers suggestions for practical exercises and activities.
20 Helpful Lent Practices
- Wake up 30 minutes earlier than you would normally do so you can have some extra time for prayer and meditation.
- Spend the first 20 minutes of the day in quiet reflection. Turn off the radio, TV, phones, etc., and wait on the Lord in total silence. Ask the Holy Spirit to whisper God’s will into your heart, and ask his guidance for the day. Give God thanks for the new day and, resolve to spend the rest of the day with a thankful heart.
- Start a “Bread and Water Bowl.” For every curse word, unkind, hateful or angry word you speak, put some money into the bowl. At the end of Lent, give the money to some Program for the Poor or send it to us for the spread of God’s Word.
- Read at least one chapter from the Bible every day.
- Get to Mass daily. If you cannot get to Mass daily, maybe due to your work schedule, then resolve to attend Mass one extra day in addition to Sunday Mass.
- Spend an hour in Eucharistic adoration, at least one day in the week.
- Get a good book on any saint and get to know more about his/her life through the season of Lent.
- In this age of the New Evangelization, pray at least One Our Father and Ten Hail Mary’s daily for the revival of the Catholic faith around the world, especially in Europe and America.
- While at home or driving, turn off the secular radio for awhile and listen to some Christian music or teaching on audiocassette/CD.
- Get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once during the Season of Lent after making a good examination of conscience.
- Develop a Prayer List that you would use for the rest of the Year. You can add more names and intentions to it as you go along.
- Set aside specific Fast days.
- Decide on at least one charity project that you wish to engage in during this season.
- Make the Stations of the Cross on Fridays through the Season of Lent either with a group or by yourself. If you have family, it would be wonderful to take them with you.
- Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary often during Lent, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays. If you have family, try praying the Rosary at least once a week with them.
- Try stopping at least 5 times a day and say a short prayer such as “Jesus, my Lord and savior, I love you,” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner,” or “Lord Jesus, I am yours and yours I always want to be.”
- Pray for people by name, especially people you don’t like and for people that don’t like you. In fact, think of the person who has hurt you the or the person who annoys you the most. Ask God’s blessings on that person.
- Watch a spiritually informative Video/DVD that could enhance your spiritual life, once every weekend through Lent.
- Make room in your schedule to attend the Holy Week ceremonies. If you have family, bring the children to an Ash Wednesday service or to the mass on Palm Sunday. Getting ashes and palms are always of particular interest to kids. And of course, don’t miss the celebration on Easter Sunday.
- Incorporate a favorite prayer to say during the days of Lent. Pick a daily time that is the most peaceful for you to say these prayers.
ASH WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2012: Ash Wednesday liturgies are some of the best attended in the entire year. Even though people may not practice their faith openly, many still have an intrinsic desire to stay connected to God. Ashes are an ancient symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes). They also remind us of our mortality (“remember that you are dust”) and of the day when we will stand before God to be judged. To prepare well for that day, we must die now to sin and rise to new life in Christ. Being marked with ashes at the beginning of Lent indicates our recognition of the need for deeper conversion of our lives during this season of renewal.
READ EPHESIANS 5:15-21