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Dear Parishioners,

On Ash Wednesday, I was very down to earth. I offered suggestions as to how, concretely, we might give alms, pray, and fast, the Church’s three traditional ways of returning, or simply just turning to God, which is what Lent is all about. My suggestions were so well received that I decided to reproduce them here.

First, almsgiving. What is almsgiving, and what does it have to do with returning to God? Almsgiving is the giving of good things to those who need them. And it has everything to do with returning to God. When we give alms, we are actually imitating God, because that is what God does. He gives good things to those who need them. It’s what he would do if he were here, standing in our shoes. So how should we give alms? Two suggestions. I will speak in a moment about fasting. Let me just say here that when you fast, it usually represents a savings, since you are abstaining from consumption of something. My suggestion is that you keep track of the money you have saved by fasting, and make a commitment to give that amount to the poor of your choice. My second suggestion has to do with Development and Peace. Today, our D&P committee is distributing their Solidarity Calendar. This is a calendar which provides for every day of the Lenten season, something to think about or something to do, related to this year’s theme: “Care for our common home”. It was designed for children, but often, what’s appropriate for children is appropriate for everyone. You might think of visiting this calendar every day in Lent, together with your child. This activity could go a long way in making you act locally and think globally.

Second, prayer. Just two simple suggestions. First, make a promise to yourself that you will talk to God every day during this Lenten season. It doesn’t have to be long, and it can be at any moment in the day. Talk to God as you would to someone who is very close to you. Tell him everything that is on your heart, on your mind. You will find, I believe that what started out as a conscious exercise will become a habit. Secondly, do a bit of research, come up with Bible-based prayer, and use those prayers during Lent. This, perhaps, more than anything, will bring you closer to God.

Third, fasting. The fasting that I find life-giving is the fast that involves abstaining from things that are actually bad for us. We experience that positive emptiness that is one of the hallmarks of vigorous spirituality, and we improve our health! To be even more specific, commit as a family to abstaining from junk food of every type. I don’t have to be more explicit. We all have a pretty good idea by now as to what constitutes junk food. The added benefit, as I mentioned above, in that by so doing, you will certainly save some money. Keep track of the money you have saved by abstaining from junk food, and give that amount of money to the needy of your choice.

All these things are doable, I believe, and have the potential to make the difference between just another Lent, and a memorable Lent, a Lent that is memorable because it brought you closer to God. Whatsoever the manner in which you choose to celebrate Lent, by the grace of God, may our Lent be for all of us a memorable Lent, the Lent in which we really and truly came closer to God.