The Practice of Lenten Practices
The well known and loved Catechism of the Catholic Church (and if you don't have one I urge you to buy one right away!) was originally written to be a source book and reference text for bishops and diocesan curriculum designers to use in creating local cathechetical programs. It presents the catechism in its most academic or abstract form. How the Truths contained therein would be presented to catechumens was left to local preference.
I've used the example of the Catechism to illustrate a fairly common challenge - how to make specific a generalised teaching? How to bring the theoretical to practical life? How to simplify a complex concept without losing the essential idea?
This challenge is especially pressing in family life. Family life can be described as the day to day activity of civilising our small barbarians and passing our faith on to them, making the habits, customs, practices of Catholic life comprehensible and teachable to small ones without making them bland, boring and meaninglessly shallow to bigger ones (including ourselves.)
The following Lenten practice ideas answer the challenge by presenting first the overall objective of a Fast, and then suggesting some ways to make a profitable forty-day period of prayer, penance, and spiritual exercises in preparation for the proper celebration of Easter.
Corporal or External Fast
Including the abstinence from certain foods, drinks and amusements, i.e. music, and parties during Lent. These points of fast should be stressed today especially with the mania of entertainment besetting our society;
Corporal or External Practices
Take less of what you like and more of what you dislike at meals today
Take nothing to drink between meals.
Do not use seasoning on your food today.
Do not use any sweeteners with your food or drinks today.
Avoid listening to the radio at all today.
Take nothing to eat between meals today.
Avoid any T.V. or videos; instead read the Passion of Christ in your Bible or missal
Take only one helping of each item at meals today.
Say an extra Rosary.
Spiritual or Internal Fast
Consists of abstinence from "all evil"--sin. Saint John Chrysostom taught that the "value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from sinful practices." And Saint Basil the Great explains: "Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongue in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossip, lying, and swearing. To abstain from these things---herein lies the true value of fast";
Spiritual or Internal Fast Practices
Don't do any unnecessary talking; instead, say little ejaculations throughout the day.
Exercise your patience today in all things.
Don't make any complaints today.
Restrain any anger, and go out of your way to be kind to the person who caused your anger.
Don't be distracted with someone else's business.
Avoid any gossip today, instead say an extra Rosary to overcome this great fault.
When asked to do something extra do so with a joyful and pleasant attitude today.
Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone today.
Avoid using the phone.
Tell the truth in all your dealings today.
Avoid vanity or self-seeking today.
The practice of virtues and good works must be the main objective of our fasting. The Fathers of the Church insisted that during Lent the faithful attend the Lenten church services and daily Mass.
In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes. Today, unfortunately, the observance of the Lent is but a mere formalism, reduced to abstinence on certain days and without any stress in ones spiritual growth or the amending of ones lifestyle.
It is urgent that we return to the pristine spirit of the Great Fast which is so badly needed in our materialistic world.
Spiritual Practices (virtues and good works)
Practice humility today in all your actions.
Be generous today; help someone in need.
Look for ways to be helpful throughout the day.
Do a job that needs being done without being asked.
Be courageous; walk away from any impure situations today.
Don't be at all idle today. Always be doing something for others or for your own spiritual growth.
Go out of your way today to help or talk to someone who is usually difficult.
Volunteer for an extra job today.
Say an extra Rosary today for the conversion of a sinner.
Visit someone who is sick or lonesome today. Offer to say the Rosary with them.
This information is published in beautiful pamphlet-Lenten calendar form by:
Saint Benedict Center
282 Still River Road - PO Box 1000,
Still River, MA 01467