By Barb Arland-Fye
How will you invite Christ into your life this Lent? The Catholic Messenger posed that question in an essay contest aimed at students in seventh through 12th grade in the Davenport Diocese. We received some thoughtful reflections and will announce the award-winning essay in next week’s issue.
As editor of a Catholic weekly newspaper, it might seem like a no-brainer to invite Christ into my life daily. However, those of us with a ministry in the church can get caught up in the minutiae of our days and ignore Christ knocking at the door.
So I’ve been pondering that question for my observance of Lent, inspired by the students’ essays and a priest’s reminder a week ago to students of a Catholic school in Florida to take time to consider how they will live out Lent.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the traditional elements of this liturgical season and I strive to remain attentive to each one. But each year, I’m tempted when I hear other Catholics say they’ll do something extra rather than give something up. Giving up a non-essential food item that I crave requires self-denial; spending time away from something I’d rather be doing requires self-denial; giving financially outside my comfort zone requires self-denial. Jesus resisted temptation and practiced self-denial for 40 days in the desert. His stamina is well beyond my limits!
Maybe I should consider self-denial from the vantage point of being a person who has the luxury of making choices. Not far from my thoughts are friends and relatives dealing with life-threatening illness or chronic, debilitating pain. I’m also thinking of people in countries in Africa, the Middle East and Far East trapped by war and lacking access to food and water. Some of them are facing famine.
Making sacrifices isn’t about embracing misery. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides a fresh approach to observing Lent: “Give up, Take Up, Lift up!” “During Lent,” the bishops say, “take inspiration from the words of St. Paul (2 Cor 8:9), and contemplate his invitation to live a life of evangelical poverty. Embrace the Lord’s call to being the blessed poor by ‘giving up’ material things, including food, superfluous to your basic needs; ‘taking up’ charitable habits directed to helping and caring for others; and ‘lifting up’ those in need through giving alms, through praying for them, and by participating in devotional practices” (usccb.org).
I downloaded and printed the USCCB calendar of daily inspiration for my Lenten journey, and encourage readers to do the same. Among the suggestions in this calendar is to meditate on the day’s Mass readings with a form of prayer called “Lectio Divina.” You can click the hyperlink to a guide on how to pray Lectio Divina. Another resource worth considering is a “Caring for our common home” Lenten reflection for Iowans. (Read more about it on Page 5 in this issue).
A good part of my Lenten plan is already in place: soup suppers following Stations of the Cross each Friday during Lent in my parish and eucharistic adoration with Liturgy of the Hours before Mass on Saturdays. This year I’m also hoping to attend Lenten services and socials at other parishes and religious communities. But worrywart that I am, the Lenten plan can seem like one more thing to do in an already full schedule. Inviting Christ into my life means that I choose to give up, take up and lift up.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com)