This is what the Catholic Church asks of us during the season of Lent. But it's not just a 'one and done' kind of thing. We are asked to recognize the link between these practices and baptismal renewal; to not just pray, fast, and give alms during Lent, but beyond. To experience a true conversion in our lives. (Reference: USCCB - The Lenten Season)
My standard Lenten sacrifice has been sweets. To give up all sweets. And usually I do pretty well. During Lent. But, come Easter Sunday, I quickly reacquaint myself with all things high-fructose. The fact that I do so well during Lent is great, and believe me a lot of prayer takes place as I pass up the desserts at our parish Friday Fish Fries. But, I miss the point of a conversion in my life.
This year, I'm trying something different. I'm going to pray, fast, and give alms in a way that I plan to continue after Easter Sunday. I will die to self for 40 days in hopes that a new me will be reborn when the tomb is found to be empty, just as I was at baptism.
I had seen reference to The Power of a Praying Wife a few times. And then I found Megan, and enjoyed reading her excerpts on Mondays. I enjoyed them so much, it was one of the first books I downloaded for my Kindle. I read the first couple of chapters, and then it was time to start the Bible in 90 Days. I found the daily bible reading took much of my time and when I finished I needed something Lighter than The Power of a Praying Wife. But then, I discovered that there is The Power of a Praying Husband and suggested to The Man that this pair of books might provide excellent Lenten reading material. He agreed! I am looking forward to praying for each other in ways we might never have considered before. I am confident these books will be not only excellent during Lent, but will also provide both a starting and reference point for us to continue to pray for one another after Lent.
Lenten fasting is usually likened to giving up certain foods and/or abstaining from meat on Fridays. As I said, I've always given up sweets for Lent, but quickly returned to them on Easter Sunday. This year, I am giving up something completely different. I am giving up all the spending I do that in isolation doesn't equal much, but when added up at the end of the month is sometimes alarming. As the person responsible for paying the bills in our house, I know when there is an extra $5 or $10 and I'm great at spending it. It is a bad habit that I need to change and I think Lent is an excellent time to start. At first, I thought about spending absolutely no money that didn't go to existing bills or household expenses, but I have reconsidered because I am truly trying to begin a more responsible way to handle money that I can continue after Easter. And we do have some 'fun' money allotted for in our budget. Unfortunately, we don't usually get to that 'fun' money because I've usually spent it as 'extra' money. I expect this to be very difficult for me, as I don't always even realize what I am doing (I'm sure that sounds crazy to some of you, but it's true). My plan to help with this is to leave my debit card at home every day - to remove the temptation so to speak. I anticipate there being 'extra' money in our bank account at the end of each month as a result of my spending fast, and my first instinct was to keep track of the money that I would have spent and then donate that amount. We are not sure that is the responsible choice for us at this point though. With my job changing from a consistent, predictable paycheck every two weeks to a variable amount on a less predictable schedule, we believe that building our savings is the right thing to do with the majority of this 'extra' money.
The point of almsgiving is not just to 'throw money at a problem', but rather to give of my time, talent, and/or treasure to effect change. In the past year or so, as I have continued to learn through my reversion process, I have learned about Catholic Social Teaching. I have made small changes in my every day life, like no longer shopping at W.al M.art and choosing products from the most just companies possible. It isn't much, but I truly believe Mahatma Gandhi had it right when he said 'be the change you wish to see in the world.' That, combined with my desire to maintain balance, I plan to spend time finding ways to spread the knowledge of NFP. I am glad that our instructor training will take place during Lent, as I am confident that it will be an excellent spring board for this.
I am so looking forward to this Lenten Season. I am ready for the journey to the cross because I'm looking forward to meeting the 'me' that is reborn as a result.
What are your Lenten plans?