Please Sir, I want some more

It’s Lent again! Man, that snuck up on me quickly. I know it is an early Lent and Easter this year but I feel like I just caught my breath from Christmas and it was already time to fast. And of course it’s time to pray and give alms. 

I think most of us are aware of the three pillars of the Lenten season. They are fasting, prayer and almsgiving. But I think that most of us focus on the first one. Every year around Ash Wednesday you will hear people asking, “So what are you giving up for Lent?” Fasting and abstinence are one of the precepts of the Church. Often when we “give up” something from Lent we are abstaining. Fasting is more of moderation of something. Fasting and abstinence help us to be more disciplined and hopefully that will reflect in all areas of our lives. 

When I spoke to my freshmen about Lent and I told them to be realistic in the fasting and abstaining. If they are someone who watches five episodes of Netflix a day, then giving up Netflix might be too hard for them and they may get discouraged quickly and give up. However, if they switch it to three episodes, fast from it but not abstain, that might be a more realistic sacrifice that they can continue for 40 days. 

Either way our thoughts of Lent have been so tied into fasting and abstinence. Many non-Catholics that I know have gotten into the practice of fasting for Lent. This is a great gift for us as Christians to learn temperance and moderation. 

But Lent is so much more and I think that we do not often remember to take advantage of the other two pillars. At Bishop Stang High School, we gave the students tags that said “fasting,” “prayer,” or “almsgiving,” and ask them to write on them what they were doing for Lent. I had to go to the copier so many times to print out copies for the fasting ones but not the prayer and almsgiving tags. We have about twice as many things being given up here at Stang as we do prayer and almsgiving.

If we are fasting or abstaining from things or food for Lent (and Netflix seems to be the number one sacrifice this year) the other two pillars should come naturally. If we have more time because we have given things up, then we can spend more time and prayer and giving.

There are three major categories of prayer: Vocal prayer, meditation and contemplative. And the great news? You can keep your technology! There are so many great apps and websites that can help you to pray more during Lent. And just like fasting and abstinence, it does not have to be some grand gesture that is going to be too hard. I told my students if you don’t normally pray the Rosary then start small with it. If you add a decade of the Rosary every day during Lent then by the time Lent is over you will have prayed the Rosary eight times. How great is that? You go from never praying the Rosary to praying it eight times in a season. 

Prayer is essential in our relationship with God and Lent is a great opportunity to strengthen that relationship. And fasting and prayer lead so naturally into the last pillar of Lent, almsgiving. If we have improved ourselves by sacrificing something important, improved our relationship with God by spending more time with Him, then next we improve the lives of our neighbors. Use Lent as the time of year when you purge your closet. If you haven’t worn it since last Lent, you probably won’t wear it again. Go to the dollar store and get some gloves, hats, socks, razors, water bottles, granola bars and lotion and make homeless survival kits. Keep them in your car and if you see someone in need, hand them out. If you are a  teen-ager and your parents do all the cooking, cook dinner once a week for them instead. Even if it’s Easy Mac and chicken nuggets, I’m sure they will appreciate the night off from cooking. Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! Give back some of your time and treasures to help those less fortunate and we can always find someone less fortunate.

Joyfully enter into the rest of this season. While sacrifice is a word that often comes with a negative connotation, we should not spend this season pouting. Spend what is left of this season joyfully praying, fasting and giving!

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in Cranston, R.I. She can be reached at atarantelli@bishopstang.com.

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts