What are your lenten plans for this year?
We are called to do three things during Lent: prayer, penance, and almsgiving.
Look beyond giving up candy for Lent. Or chocolate. Or cigarettes. Or coffee. One person I knew gave up things beginning with “C” for Lent. I’m not sure if that included cabbage and cauliflower, but I guess there were enough things beginning with “C” that he liked for this to make sense.
There is value to the discipline of giving up things we like for Lent. Perhaps we can focus on giving up things that we want to give up for good. After all, following Lent, we will eat chocolate again, and we’ll drink coffee again. What about giving up gossiping, or talking about others? We can use Lent to build up good habits that we want to acquire, like being polite in traffic, taking time to visit a homebound friend, or being pleasant to people whom we tend to find irritating. Sometimes that’s enough of a penance!
Lent is a time of reconciliation. We can give up grudges, or anger. We can write a note to someone from whom we have been estranged. We can call and apologize to someone whom we have offended. At Mass, the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconcilation can be used. Almost every parish has an evening communal reconciliation service with the opportunity for individuals to celebrate the sacrament in addition to the regular Saturday afternoon schedule.
Many people celebrate the season by attending daily Mass, or by doing extra prayers during the day. The parish can help by making extra opportunities available. A group could gather in the chapel for Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer. Many parishes offer Stations of the Cross or Taize Prayer on Friday evenings. Or an extra Mass in the evening, or at lunch hour for those who are working in the area. Some parishes organize a “Day of Prayer” and invite people to sign up so that people will be present in the church building throughout the day. Kay Murdy’s book, A Closer Walk with Jesus: Reading and Praying the Daily Gospels for Lent would be a great book to offer parishioners to use by themselves or in groups. Each day’s selection is brief, prayerful, and challenging.
Parishes can organize opportunities for almsgiving. One parish has a sock collection. They invite everyone to bring in new socks to be given to the homeless. Some regularly collect food for distribution, either at the parish or through a local center. The places that requested donations at Christmas need them now, too. The parish can bring people’s attention to that. Many parishes have soup suppers and request donations for the poor. The soup supper can be Friday night before whatever prayer service might be planned.
Please send me suggestions from your parish practices, and I’ll include them in next month’s Ministry Resource Update.
Practicality: Remember to invite people to bring their palms from last year so they can become this year’s ashes.
Joyce Milko from Immaculate Conception parish in Durham, NC wrote that one of the important points of stewardship is always to “thank everyone.” One of the ways she does this is by an appreciation brunch before Christmas for some of the ministries that have “daytime” volunteers. She says it is a successful event and the people love it. The staff, including the priests, help serve the poeple and walk around and thank them. She said she’s never seen such smiles.
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Caroline M. Thomas
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