By Mary DeTurris Poust
Ash Wednesday is finally here, and we have the whole season of Lent to move forward on our spiritual path through fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. I know it's not always an easy journey. We can quickly get knocked off course by even the most unimportant and unexpected events or circumstances. If you're looking for daily books or guides to get you through the season, there are two that I find especially helpful: The Little Black Book: Six-minute Meditations on the Passion of Mark, based on the writings of the late Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, Michigan," and The Magnificat Lenten Companion. (You'll find a reflection by yours truly on the Fifth Sunday of Lent in the Magnificat booklet.) Both books offer short but inspiring reflections to help you carve out a little time each day of Lent to reflect on where you're going and where God is -- or should be -- on your journey.
If you're looking for an inspiring book for Lenten reading, consider the two following selections:
"The Spirituality of Fasting: Rediscovering a Christian Practice," by Msgr. Charles Murphy, and "The Heart Transformed: Prayer of Desire," by Celia Wolf-Devine. These two books will lead you deep into the heart of Lent. I was lucky enough to talk to both authors for two different OSV stories and felt I had been on a mini-retreat rather than an interview after we were finished talking. Give yourself a gift this Lent and spend time with these authors and their beautiful messages about deepening our faith through fasting and prayer.
So often these days I hear people talk about how they're not going to do "something negative" for Lent -- by which they mean fasting or "giving up" -- and will instead do something "positive." Well, the three pillars of Lent -- fasting, almsgiving, prayer -- are all positive and are all important. We need to focus on each pillar, at least a little bit. So...if you haven't already seen it, please check out my story on fasting in the February 21 issue of OSV. It's open online even to non-subscribers. Here it is...
How Fasting Fuels Charity, GrowthIf you missed it, I also wrote an OSV story on almsgiving in the February 14 issue. You can find that by clicking HERE (for subscribers).
By Mary DeTurris Poust
Fasting and abstinence were once staples of Catholic life. There was a time not so long ago when you could spot Catholics in a restaurant simply by looking at what was on their plates on a Wednesday or Friday.
But with changes in Church rules and individual mindsets, fasting slowly began to fall out of fashion. Today, in popular Catholic culture at least, fasting is often considered a quaint practice of days gone by, something that pales in comparison to doing charitable works.
And yet fasting is one of the three pillars of Lent, equal to prayer and almsgiving in the trilogy of practices for the season. In fact, fasting is woven into the fabric of many of the world’s religions — Judaism, Islam, Buddhism — in one fashion or another.
Why is fasting so important? Because learning to do without, especially when the sacrifice is made on behalf of another, helps to free our bodies and spirits from the worldly desires that threaten to pull us off our spiritual path. Continue reading HERE.
Have a blessed and peace-filled Lent. I'll check back throughout the season to talk about books, practices, and prayers that can help us on our way. Please share the things that you find particularly helpful during the season of Lent.