Living Out Lent to the Max- Prayer - Part One of a Three Part Series

Lent starts with Ash Wednesday! The Gospel reading in the Mass of Ash Wednesday gives us the practical program to live out a fruitful, efficacious Lent that leads to self knowledge, love for Christ, and conversion of life.
Actually the Biblical passage is taken from part of the Sermon on the Mount. The church takes two parts of the 6th chapter of Matthew: Mt. 6:1-6 and Mt. 6: 16-18. In these few verses the Church outlines three specific practices that we should undertake with generosity so as to live out a most fruitful Lent, hopefully the “most” fruitful Lent that culminates in the triumph of the Risen Lord on Easter!  The secret to experiencing the intensity of the joy of the Risen Lord Jesus Easter day is to live out intensely the season of Lent, which is an extraordinary gift the Church offers us every year. If you like, the secret of success of the party is the preparation before the party!

In a concrete and simple way Jesus exhorts us to undertake three specific practices and if undertaken seriously they will lead us to a true “Metanoia”—meaning a true conversion of mind, will, heart, body and life! GENEROSITY!   The key is a well-disposed and generous heart.
These three specific practices are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  The purpose of this short essay is to give us five practical suggestions for each of the three categories (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) with the hope that you will at least choose one from each category. Pray to the Holy Spirit that He will enlighten your intellect and empower your will to decide correctly and act with a determined determination. (St. Teresa of Avila). After deciding, to verify and affirm your decision, why not run it by your confessor or spiritual director for approval. Actions have much more merit when done under obedience. This we see constantly in the lives of the saints and especially in the Diary of Mercy in my Soul in the person of St. Faustina Kowalski.  Jesus Himself said “I prefer obedience to sacrifice.”  Let us now dive in!
PRAYER.   To encourage us to be generous in prayer start by meditating on a sublime teaching of St. Peter of Alcantara on the fruits of a powerful prayer life.  “In mental prayer, adds St. Peter of Alcantara, the soul is purified of its sins, nourished with charity, confirmed in faith, and strengthened in hope; the mind expands, the affections dilate, the heart is purified, truth becomes evident; temptation is conquered, sadness dispelled; the senses are renovated; the drooping powers revive; tepidity ceases; the rust of vices disappears. Out of mental prayer issue forth, like living sparks, those desires of heaven which the soul conceives when inflamed with the fire of divine love. Sublime is the excellence of mental prayer; great are its privileges; to mental prayer heaven is opened; to mental prayer heavenly secrets are manifested and the ear of God is ever attentive.”

1.     DAILY MEDITATION OF THE WORD OF GOD.   Time and time again the saints, Doctors of the Church, as well as church documents encourage us to read and meditate on the Bible, the living Word of God. St. Jerome reminds us, “Ignorance of Sacred Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  We cannot love somebody we do not know! Find time, place, and good will to meditate on the Word of God. Mary is our example who we find two times in the Gospel of Luke pondering, meditating in her heart. May Mary be our model, guide and inspiration!
2.     VISIT THE BLESSED SACRAMENT.   Jesus is longing for your friendship. Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic letter, “Porta fidei” (Door of faith) insists on getting to know Jesus in an intimate and personal way, as friends get to know each other. Friends like to visit each other frequently. Jesus should be your “Best Friend”. Visit Him and talk to Him about everything that is going on in your life! Take as your example the movie, Marcelino Pan y vino, and the growing depth in friendship between the little orphan by and Jesus. You can be that little “Marcelino”!

3.     LECTIO-DIVINA.  The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini  (The Word of God) suggests another way to pray called “Lectio Divina”. He outlines specific steps in this method/process.

a)     Lectio--- Read slowly, attentively and prayerfully with the Biblical disposition of heart: ‘Speak O Lord for your servant is listening.”

b)    Meditatio---- Think deeply, ponder, ruminate (as a cow chews his cud) on the word.

c)     Contemplatio----Use your imagine to pray and picture yourself present to the scene. St. Ignatius in the Spiritual Exercises calls this “Composition of Place”.  You are really present with Jesus in the scene!

d)    Oratio--- Open up your heart in a colloquy or conversation with God over the text.

e)    Accio--- Prayer should lead you action. You are called to be a contemplative in action like the Blessed Virgin Mary who meditated on the Word in her heart and then was moved to share Jesus with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist

f)      Transformacio--- If indeed we are praying well and uniting ourselves with God then there will be a transformation of our lives so much so that with Paul we can say, “It is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.”

4.     HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS. Of course the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, full, active and conscious participation in Mass, culminating in the reception of Holy Communion which is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ is by far the most sublime and efficacious prayer in the universe. No other prayer can come close to our be compared to Holy Mass and Holy Communion. Therefore, why not make a proposal for the holy Season of Lent to try to attend Holy Mass every day (bring the family along with you!); if it is impossible every day at least several days during the course of the week. You will never regret this practice in times as well as in eternity!

5.     HOLY ROSARY. Our Lady of Fatima appeared six times to the children in Fatima. Every time she appeared she asked for the recitation of the most Holy Rosary. Pope Blessed John Paul II in his document on the Blessed Virgin on the Rosary implored the world to pray the Rosary and especially for two specific intentions: for world peace and for the salvation of the family. Recall the words of the Rosary-priest, Father Patrick Peyton, of immortal memory:  “A world at prayer is a world at peace” and “The family that stays together stays together.”

In these three part article, we have concluded with the five suggestions on the topic of prayer. Prayer is essential for our sanctification, conversion, perseverance, and eternal salvation as well as the whole world. Be generous and God will infinitely more generous with you!