One in a series of Lenten reflections.
Bt Fr. Andy Booms
Special to The Catholic Weekly
Some of us might be feeling like we are in the middle of a marathon. We are not yet at the mid-point of Lent’s 40 days. The increased attention we give to prayer, fasting and almsgiving can be tiring if we are running the course alone.
Our spiritual practices of Lent are meant to prepare us for the communal celebration of Easter. So we do not have to go it alone — stubbornly bearing each day of Lent as a personal test of endurance or proudly keeping track of how much time we have spent praying, fasting or giving alms.
Some ways to include others in our Lenten practices include taking time to attend more communal prayer events (daily Mass, adoration, Stations of the Cross, public rosaries, etc.). These public events are ways to increase our prayer and find more support in the community. When it comes to fasting and almsgiving it is particularly important to link these two activities. Our fasting is not supposed to enable us to save up for ourselves, but our fasting should enable us to share our resources. What we give up should help us connect with others.
Sometimes we think of fasting during Lent as a reason to save money and use it for something special later. What our fasting is supposed to help us do is make a difference for someone who might regularly go hungry. In choosing to eat less or go without we are uniting in a bond called solidarity. We freely choose to embrace the reality that others are forced to experience.
In this weekend’s Gospel Jesus displays a great deal of vigor and energy in cleansing the temple. Our fasting can be an act of cleansing, removing from our lives the pollutants that distract us from our prayer and from the needs of people around us. With proper fasting we may find that not only do we have more to give to others, but we may even have more time to devote to prayer.
If we want to experience new vigor and new energy in following the traditional Lenten path it is very important to make a connection with others. If you have not already taken time to utilize the Operation Rice Bowl (ORB) program this year is a great time to rediscover the richness of consciously joining with others on a cause.
Through ORB we join with many others in our parish, diocese and nation to live simply so that others can live. The funds raised through ORB are divided with 25 percent staying in the Saginaw Diocese and 75 percent being used to address long-term food security in poverty and conflict-ridden parts of our world.
If Operation Rice Bowl does not appeal to you, we have an additional way to contribute to the well-being of the poor in the world with the annual Catholic Relief Services collection taken up each Lent (usually next weekend). If you choose to use your alms to help with this collection, you will not be disappointed with its great effects.
It is not too late to make changes to our Lenten plans. We have four weeks until Easter. Now may be a perfect time to join with your community in a common goal of drawing more life from the Easter waters of baptism.
If you want to get more information about Operation Rice Bowl or the CRS collection you can go to the Internet. The Rice Bowl website with links to connect you to our brothers and sisters around the world and activities to unite prayer, fasting and almsgiving is http://orb.crs.org. For more details on how your sacrificial giving to the CRS Collection impacts people’s lives in over 100 countries you can visit http://www.usccb.org/crscollection.
Fr. Andy Booms is pastor of St. Michael Parish in Port Austin and St. Edward/St. Mary Parish in Kinde and director of vocations for the Diocese of Saginaw.