Getting Ready for Lent
Lent is almost upon us. Wednesday this week is Ash Wednesday. In the traditional Roman calendar (before Vatican II) we are given three weeks to prepare for Lent in what is known as the period of Septuagesima – Latin for the seventieth day before Easter. As in Lent purple vestments are worn and the Gloria and Alleluia are not said, but flowers are still permitted in the church and the organ is still played. The Sundays which follow are Sexagesima (sixtieth) and Quinquagesima (fiftieth), and Ash Wednesday is called Quadragesima, (fortieth). So today would be Quinquagesima Sunday. The arithmetic is not exact – it’s more symbolic, but it gives us more time to prepare for Lent. In the modern calendar this period doesn’t exist which is a great pity, because Lent just suddenly comes upon us and we can easily be unprepared. So let’s all think about Lent now!
An important question to ask ourselves is “what is the state of my spiritual life?” Yes, I come to Mass on Sundays – but when I return home, am I only concerned with worldly things? Does my faith gradually take a back seat throughout the week because of my cares for the world, like watching too much TV or using the internet or Twitter too much? Sometimes families can have so many activities, clubs, sports, entertainments, that there’s no time for prayer or anything spiritual at home. If that’s the case, perhaps some of these activities need to be reduced? Try to come together each day as a family for prayer. “The family that prays together stays together.” Or if you are retired you might be able to attend Mass in the week or come to Holy Hour on a Saturday morning?
The Church also recommends we give something up during Lent. It could be something small, like not taking milk in your coffee or giving up condiments on food. These small things can be quite difficult to sustain, but can be very beneficial to your spiritual life. Or perhaps you could give more time to helping the needy? This might include almsgiving. But don’t try doing too many things as it may result in your giving them all up in exasperation!
So we have just over a couple of days left. Decide now what you are going to do and write down what you decide. It will help you stick to it. Otherwise you could end up saying, “Oh dear, it’s too late now. I’ll leave it till next year.” Don’t let that happen. For any of us, this could be our last Lent on this earth. Make the most of it!
Fr Paul Gillham, IC