By Jeannine Marino
Celebrating Lent is “easy” for Catholics. We have a clear start day- Ash Wednesday. Even if you forgot it’s Ash Wednesday as soon as you see someone with a dirty forehead you know it’s Lent! We know that Lent ends on Easter. And in between Ash Wednesday and Easter, we have an easy-to-remember list of what to do during Lent: Pray, Fast and give Alms.
Everyone has a favorite of the three. As a kid, I loved the fasting on Fridays mainly because I knew we would be having pizza and if we were lucky we'd be at my Nonna’s house on Friday night, which meant homemade pizza. Almsgiving has also been one of the “easier” things about Lent for me too. It never really seems too difficult to spend one or two afternoons volunteering or adding something extra each week to my envelope.
Prayer always seems like the easy part of Lent. How hard is it to say an extra prayer or two each day? But every Lent, how often do we fail at this? Often we start off saying: I am going to do 30 minutes of meditation, or I am going to say a whole rosary. And instead we just say a quick prayer before bed each night.
So this Lent, I am going to follow number Six of Bishop David Ricken’s 10 Things to Remember for Lent: Don’t Do Too Much. I am going to keep my prayer simple and focused. I’ll remember that Lent is an act of prayer spread out over 40 days and that the point of Lent and prayer is to grow closer to Christ.
St. John Damascene gave us a classic definition of prayer: "Prayer is the raising of one's mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God". Taking time each day during Lent to simply raise my mind and heart to God is something I can accomplish. Hopefully, I can spend more time each day in prayer than I normally do, and maybe some days I will pray a whole rosary. But this Lent, on the days where the world gets the best of me, I think I will focus on this message of Blessed Pope John XXIII:
Hear all; believe a few; honor all.
Do not believe everything you hear;
Do not judge everything you see;
Do not do everything you can;
Do not give everything you have;
Do not say everything you know.
Pray, read, withdraw, be silent, be at peace.
Jeannine Marino is assistant director of the USCCB Secretariat on Evangelization and Catechesis.