Lent is the season when we are called to deepen our relationship with God in our journey to become the person God intends for us to be. The Church gives us tools to help us on our journey: the Three Pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
Prayer, especially personal prayer, is the first pillar and basic foundation of our life as Christians. The four types of prayers that we all need to voice to God are Thanks, Wow, Gimme, and Oops. Thank you prayers are those that simply thank God for any and all blessings he has bestowed upon us. When others do something nice for us, we thank them. It is no different with God, we should never forget to thank God. Wow prayers are not so much about our blessings, but instead about the blessings given to the whole world. Wow prayers are when we take a moment to focus on all the beauty and goodness of God we find in the world and praise Him. Wow prayers help us to appreciate and take better care of our world.
Gimme prayers are probably the most common. Those are all the times we ask God for something we really need. Gimmes are important prayers because God wants us to come to him with all our needs. Remember when you were a kid and you asked your parents for a puppy, even though you had been told you could not have a puppy? Do not be afraid to ask God for the puppy, meaning the really big thing in your life you desire. If God intends for you to have the puppy and if the puppy will help you to become the person God intends for you to be, God will give you the puppy.
Oops prayers are obviously, admitting when we have done something wrong and saying I am sorry to God. By admitting our mistakes and saying I am sorry to God, we learn to say I am sorry to others. It is important to take accountability for our actions as we journey to become the person God intends for us to be, admitting and apologizing to God is the perfect start. Of course, for really big mistakes we need to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which restores our relationship with God and with the Church.
The second pillar of Lent is fasting. While the Church provides the rules for fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday, the Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday, true fasting for Lent is different. When we “give up” chocolate or potato chips for Lent it is meant as a discipline to get rid of the “junk” in our lives and is intended to be a lasting change, not a continuation of our New Year’s resolution. While “giving up” something is good, doing something positive can be life changing as well. Perhaps this Lent we could try fasting from anger, bitterness, or impatience. What about a fast from missing Sunday mass or forgetting daily prayer? It’s never too late to start that Lenten fast that can change our lives for the better.
The third pillar of Lent is almsgiving. While digging a little deeper in our pocket to share our treasure with those in need is admirable and important, caring for our elderly neighbor, visiting a friend who is suffering, or anytime we show compassion, empathy, or inconvenience ourselves to assist others is considered almsgiving as well.
This Lent how will you use the Three Pillars to deepen your relationship with God?
-Joan Paul Fetty, MA