Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Spring, I am teaching again in our diaconate program for the Diocese. My course deals with the spiritual life and how to grow in one’s relationship with God. Through teaching I am encouraged to be more mindful of how those concepts are also found at the parish level. With all of that in mind, liturgically we are now embarking upon the holy season of Lent. Let’s face it: Lent is not always easy nor is it everyone’s favorite time of year. But if we look a bit closer at what is occurring and what we’re encouraged to pursue over these forty days, we may notice that Lent intensifies what is most important in strengthening our relationship with the Lord.

The three pillars of the Lenten season are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes there’s a tendency to focus on just one of these aspects, namely fasting, but the reality is that all three are necessary for a truly successful Lent. And each of them is also a key to deepening our own spiritual lives as well.

Prayer is kind of a no-brainer. If we wish to be closer to God, then we ought to be in regular contact with him. Prayer is the means by which we take time away from other things and spend time concentrating on and being in the presence of the Lord. There are many forms and all of them have merit. What Lent encourages us to do is to be consistent in our current prayer and maybe try different as well. If you want to have a good Lent and feel closer to God then good consistent prayer is non-negotiable.

Fasting is a denial of self. Not always easy, but likewise necessary for growth in the Christian life. While it can be unpleasant to deny ourselves some of our favorite things or forego certain meals and food. Nevertheless, if we are too focused on what we want or feel like we need, it’s harder to seek God in our lives. Fasting provides a means of forgetting ourselves just a little bit in order to be more open to others and most especially, God.

Almsgiving is meant to be showing charity towards others, typically those in need. We can think of it in physical terms, like donating goods and money to the less fortunate. We can also consider acts of kindness and other charitable interactions as being almsgiving as well. Teresa of Avila insisted that growth in prayer must be accompanied by growth in love and charity to be authentic. If the desire to help others and to be more charitable does not coincide with deeper prayer, something is quite off. We as Christians must love our neighbor and almsgiving is a
prime example of doing that.

And so, with such things in mind, may we all be focused on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this Lent. And through such things, may we ever grow closer to Christ!

Peace and Goodness,
Fr. Dan