Suggestions for prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Passiontide — the last two weeks of the Lenten season
Is your Lent stalling a bit in these final days? A sloppy fasting day, a forgotten sacrifice, or a moment of oh-well-no-big-deal with a later hangover of regret, can leave us feeling guilty. Or like that halo is passing us by.
Regardless, there’s still enough Lent remaining to shift into higher gear. Passiontide — the last two weeks of Lent — is all about diving deeper. For starters, it’s good to reevaluate if we are covering the basics well—the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. “Give alms...Pray to your Father...Fast without a gloomy face...” (Matthew 6:1-18). Lent is a focused time to participate in these three things to grow in love and charity seeking a new life in Christ.
Below are ideas from the chapter on Lent from my book, Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith & Get to Heaven that can be graphed onto whatever you are already doing.
- Pray for others. One of the spiritual works of mercy is praying for the living and the dead.
- Thank God for every inconvenience during Lent. “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him,” (Colossians 3:17).
- Take your suffering and unite it with the passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In Divine Mercy in My Soul: The Diary of St. Faustina, she wrote: "I make a voluntary offering of myself for the conversion of sinners, especially for those souls who have lost hope in God's mercy," (309). “My sacrifice is nothing in itself, but when I join it to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it becomes all powerful.” (482).
- Plan a time of prayer so Lent feels different from not Lent.
- Make a post on Facebook offering to take people’s prayers to adoration. Be warned, prayer requests will keep coming after you have returned from adoration. You could schedule another adoration time, bring the additional intentions with you the next time, or take down the post before you leave home. There are many people in need of prayers.
- Pray for the souls in purgatory. “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins” (2 Maccabees 12:46).
- Pray the Stations of the Cross at home or church. According to Brother Estanislao (1903-1927) Jesus made promises to those with a devotion to “The Way of the Cross,” including, strong spiritual protection, filling them with graces, and being close to them in life, especially at the hour of death. There is also a plenary indulgence attached to praying the stations at church or at a site where you move from station to station.
- Pray for anyone who irritates or troubles you as you go through your day.
- Skip a meal. Perhaps offer it up for those who don’t have the option of eating.
- Have only one meal a day.
- Abstain from something at each meal. It could be mustard on your sandwich, the main course, french fries, salad dressing… just something that is a sacrifice. St. Francis de Sales advised people never to leave the table without having refused themselves something.
- Pick a day or a meal where you just fast on bread and water. Andrew LaVallee, Founder of Live the Fast explains: “A bread and water fast also teaches us to distinguish between what we need versus what we want, and we enter into a poor spirit’ as our food is simple yet fulfilling.”
- Eat only for health and survival. Keep meals plain such as a hard-boiled egg, dry toast and a banana. That used to be St. Teresa of Calcutta’s daily breakfast.
- Do not eat between meals.
- Fast from vanity. Don’t wear jewelry or makeup or go without one of those items such as earrings or mascara. Intentionally wear clothing you don’t particularly like. Then, get on about your day forgetting about your appearance. Focusing more on others which will reflect your real beauty.
- Ask God to reveal the Lazarus’ s in your life that need your giving. “Lazarus lay dying outside the rich man’s house, ignored, except for the dogs that licked his wounds. When both men died, Lazarus went to heaven, but the rich man did not” (Luke 16:19-31).
- If you abstain from something that costs money such as coffee or cigarettes, give that money to the poor.
- Fundraise online by sharing appeals for worthy causes.
- Make your giving hurt so it’s not from your excess.
- Go through your closets and house. Pick out something you love and give it to charity. Find an item a day or an item a week. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:16-21).
If you should grow weary during Lent, it’s confirmation of real sacrifice. And Lent does not last forever. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).