By Mary DeTurris Poust
We are now in the first full week of Lent. The time when the reality of our Lenten sacrifices starts to hit home. Last week we were pumped up on the spiritual adrenaline that seems to come with the start of this solemn season. We had high hopes, determination, conviction. Now, as our stomach growls and we stare longingly into the pantry at the chocolate covered pretzels, we may be starting to think: "I can't have sweets (TV, beer, Facebook, etc.) for how long?
We may even begin to question if this is really necessary, as we try to justify in our head a reason for begging out of the promises we made with our heart less than a week ago. Just the other day I received a call from a friend who wanted me to help her explain to her kids this whole giving-up-meat-on-Fridays thing. Why, she asked, why?
I recently gave a talk on just this topic -- the whys behind the three pillars of Lent, which, on the surface or taken out of context, can look a little meaningless. Giving up cake, giving up meat? How is that going to bring me closer to God? Well, it won't unless we put some prayer behind it. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are a package deal. We're not meant to do one without the others. Saint Augustine said that prayer and fasting are the two "wings" of charity. In other words, we can't really serve others without the foundational pillar of prayer and the sacrificial pillar of fasting.
Fasting without prayer is dieting. Almsgiving without prayer is philanthropy. So we have to start with prayer and move outward and inward all at the same time. That's the only way we can make sense of all we're doing during Lent.
I went back and found some stories I did for OSV on the three pillars of Lent. If you want to know more about our reasons for -- and the spiritual benefits of -- fasting, click HERE. If you want to know more about almsgiving, click HERE. And if you want to explore the pillar of prayer in more detail, click HERE.
So, tell me, how are you doing with your Lenten promises so far? And have you found a way to effectively weave all three pillars into your practice?