All Christians, not only monks, are called upon to deepen their life with God through "making a good Lent". Maintaining a Christian life is built upon certain foundations which must be present if one wishes to grow. (We are talking about practical things here, not trying to present a theology of aceticism.) A life of faith must include:
  1. PRAYER - lifting of the mind and heart to God. This is often interferred with by distractions, especially those of everyday life and business. Therefore we need to learn to set aside time to become re-collected, to collect all the bits and pieces of ourselves that we scatter about on many projects and desires, and let ourselves become whole again in the healing presence of God. LENT involves a re-dedication to this way of prayer. To make it more possible, LENT also involves the next step:

  2. FASTING - not merely an abstinence from certain foods or amounts and times of foods, though that is an important discipline, but a SIMPLIFICATION OF LIFE. It is a time of "spring cleaning" in which we go through our homes and donate unused items for the benefit of others, re-organize those items we retain, and attempt to clean away the dust and grime of the past year. We go through our schedules and evaluate our activities: is this something that truly demonstrates who I am? is this recreation in keeping with my beliefs? am I OVER or UNDER-involved in activities, each good in themselves, or should I change my focus a bit and join/drop this group in order to more clearly be "who I am called to be"? We put away distractions and become more focused in God's Will.
         And of course I must "spring clean" my entire being. Fasting from food helps to cleanse my body. Fasting from sharp words, bitterness and the need to control helps to cleans my emotions. Fasting from focus on the world helps to cleanse my mind. And it follows closely that I will want to deeply evaluate my life and submit my faults, failings and sins to the healing cleansing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  3. CHARITY - having reviewed my life and being called more deeply into God's love for me, I should find that I have gifts to share - both through the giving of alms (time and goods) in charity, and for the giving of myself, personally, through prayers of intercession and "works of charity".

Some other Lenten Prayers and Practices and a REAL fast!

Ash Wednesday Has a Long History

The Holy Father's Lenten Message 1998

Having a better understanding of the MEANING of the Lenten practices, we need to review the MINIMUM practices as outlined by Holy Church.

To emphasize the importance of this time of spiritual house-cleaning and preparation for the rebirth of EASTER, the Church gives example in many ways. The vestments on all weekdays remain purple and only two great feasts break the somber mood: The Feast of St. Joseph, and the Feast of the Annunciation. The readings in the liturgy bring forth the self searching and laments of the saints and prophets. We are called to recognize our sinfulness both corporately and individually, that we might be open to God's healing love. This is our time of wandering in the desert, being stripped of all that is not of God, and participating with peace in that process, that we might joyfully celebrate the "Passover" from the world into the mystical body of Christ. The readings from day to day follow a very ancient schedule for that purpose.

      Many local parishes bring back the custom of the Stations of the Cross during this time, to help us consider the great love Jesus Christ has for us, and all that He endured for our sakes. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is more readily available and often there are services for preparation and thanksgiving as a community for the individual celebrations of this sacrament. This Sacrament is so important that we are advised to utilize it more frequently all year, but especially during the seasons of Lent and Easter. (It is NOT a Lenten/Easter requirement, although reception of the Eucharist at least once during this period is, and many need to prayerfully receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before they are able to "make their Easter duty.")

FASTING and ABSTINENCE, as symbols for the other aspects of penitential works and as good in themselves, and are required during Lent as follows:
  • Fasting*: by all between the ages of 18 and 59, unless pregnant, nursing, or advised not to by a physician for real reasons of health:
    • on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
    • ENCOURAGED Fridays during Lent, and even all week-days of Lent
  • Abstinence from "flesh-meat" (i.e. meat and fowl, including gravies and stocks made from them) by all over the age of 14, unless there is a real reason of health:
    • on Ash Wednesay and all Fridays of Lent, as well as Good Friday
    • ENCOURAGED on all Fridays of the year.

All year long we are required to support our local church and are ENCOURAGED to support "works of charity and missionary work" with both our time and our talent - especially during Lent.

*Technically, fasting is to take two small meals which together equal less than one full meal. A full meal is defined as about a quart of food. One may not snack between meals, but may take liquids (including milk and fruit juice, if needed) throughout the day.

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