By Tony DeGol
When Father Tim Grimme recalls past Lents, he remembers his mother consistently giving up cigarettes.
One year, when Lent ended, she continued giving them up.
“She learned over the course of 40 days that she could depend on God and not on the things of this world,” he explained.
That story presents a lesson to all Catholics preparing for another Lenten season.
The upcoming 40 day journey is a time to rejuvenate one’s relationship with the Lord, stressed Father Grimme, Pastor of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Altoona.
After a week or two of the penitential season, faithful sometimes stumble and fall short of the spiritual and sacrificial goals they set for themselves.
That point should not mean one’s personal Lent has concluded, Father Grimme insisted.
“That’s when you start learning you need to depend upon God to continue through this period,” he added. “If you make it all the way through 40 days of Lent, you’ll grow stronger in some habit, in some way of growing in your relationship with God.”
Parishioners are urged to not let Lent pass without doing something to draw closer to Jesus in preparation for Easter, and it is important to be realistic about one’s intentions.
“When we want to do things for God, don’t overwhelm yourself with lots of things to do,” Father Grimme suggested. “Pick one and go at it wholeheartedly.”
The three pillars of Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – present golden opportunities for the faithful to truly engage in this season.
Improving one’s prayer life during Lent, according to Father Grimme, can be looked at quantitatively and qualitatively.
Quantitatively, one can pray more – such as going to Mass during the week, praying the Rosary or the Stations of the Cross, and reading scripture, he proposed.
“Qualitative prayer means praying better, paying attention to our prayers,” Father noted. “Many times we ramble through our prayers, we get into ruts and routines, and we’re not listening to our prayers, so qualitatively, we can listen better.”
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting for Catholics ages 18-59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. Abstaining from meat is obligatory on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent for persons 14 and older.
Of course many Catholics also choose to give up favorite foods or habits or luxuries during Lent.
“Fasting reminds us we can do things voluntarily showing that we’re not dependent on the things and ways of this world, and we can rely more upon God,” Father Grimme said.
When parishioners think of almsgiving during Lent, Catholic Relief Services’ Operation Rice Bowl usually comes to mind. Lenten alms donated through Rice Bowl support the work of CRS in more than 100 different countries each year. Twenty-five percent of donations to CRS Rice Bowl stay in the local diocese, supporting hunger and poverty alleviation efforts.
“Charity is not just almsgiving,” Father mentioned. “It can be acts of charity – picking someone in your family, your neighborhood, your friends who you’re going to do something for. You’re giving of your time and energy in the service of God.”
Lent also presents many opportunities to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Besides the regularly scheduled confession times, many parishes offer communal penance services in the weeks leading up to Easter.
“The community can come together and realize that we are not alone and isolated in our sins,” Father Grimme stated. “In joining with a community, we realize we are one with Christ and one with one another.”