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Father Muench Says...

Lent: precious time of prayer and penance

March 1, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Today, let us share a bit concerning Lent. Now, I know that as we approach Ash Wednesday that you have been hearing a great deal about Lent.  This is a precious time of prayer and penance; for us, Catholics, Lent is important – it is our yearly time of retreat. 

So, what can I add to what you have been hearing?

The first thing I like to say each year is this, “Do something for Lent.”

I want you to remember how important this gift of Lent is. This is a time for us to again become new and alive in the Spirit of our God as we look forward to Holy Week, the Passion and Death of Jesus and the Lord’s Resurrection. 

This is a time dedicated to conversion and we cannot waste this opportunity.  This is our time to draw ever closer to the Lord.

So, let me share a few of my own plans for Lent.  As I share them with you, I will be making my own examine of what Lent will be like for me.

When I think of Lent, I begin with considering how I can test and strengthen my own self- control.  I find it important to give up something to demonstrate to myself that I do have some self-control in my own life.  So, I decide to eliminate something that I am hung up on – maybe food or drink, maybe desserts, although I am not a big dessert person or maybe something like snacking which is a real addiction of mine.

Actually, this does become a penance ,a time to offer up some penance for my sinfulness and my gratitude for God’s forgiving love. 

Let me tell you, that the reality is that it doesn’t have to be something major.  Sometimes a simple change can be more painful.  Anyway, I do know from past years’ experience that I this kind of Lenten mortification was truly strengthening my self-control.

One addiction that I must do something about is television which can be so addictive.  I am certain that it would be so good for me to give up some – or maybe all – television for Lent.  It simply takes too much of my time.
This Lent could be my year for removing this addiction.

Lent means more prayer also.  The very purpose of Lent for all of us is to strengthen our prayer life.  Prayer draws us all closer in to God.  Prayer brings the presence of the Lord more completely into our lives. 

When I suggest more prayer to people, I remind them that it doesn’t need to be a long time. For many of you just a few minutes extra a day for prayer can do so much of transforming your life, of making you a more saintly person.

For me, as a priest, at this time of my life, it will be so good for me to dedicate more time to being with the Lord in prayer.

And, by the way, silence is such an important part of this moving closer to the Lord.  These times of silence allows God the opportunity to find us, to reach us.  Silence must become an important part of our lives.

For me, the celebration of Mass is the heart of any my Lenten program.  I know that you realize that for us, Catholics, Mass is our most important moment of our prayer.  The strength of our spiritual life becomes more alive through our participation in Mass.

I encourage you to make participation in Mass to be an important part of your Lenten dedication so I urge you to join in the celebration of Mass during the week as well as on Sunday, maybe even just one other day during the week.  I know for myself that Mass transforms me into a new person through the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy Eucharist is a time to be united with God is a fulfilling time, a time to find God, a time of gratitude to God for all that he has given me.  Truly, it offers a time of personal conversion, of becoming a new person through this important sacrament.

Finally, I believe it is good, even important, to dedicate my Lent to a definite intention.  I want to dedicate this Lenten adventure for those I need who need my prayers and God’s help. I pray that my prayers and my penance will bring God’s love and help to my loved ones – those I know who I want God to help.

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