This Year, Try a More Integrated Approach to Lent

At Grotto, Mike Jordan Laskey writes:

In his brief remarks, Pope Francis hit on the Catholic Church’s three traditional Lenten practices, which, in addition to fasting, include prayer and almsgiving (material support for those living on the margins). Fasting finds its meaning only if it’s connected to the other two practices.

The Church certainly makes good sense lifting up these three disciplines, but after I learned that there were actually three things I was supposed to be doing in Lent instead of just one, I saw a potential trap right away: Three Lenten practices is way more than one Lenten practice. If giving up chocolate without praying or supporting the marginalized was more than I could reliably handle over 40 days, what was I supposed to do with three obligations?

A few years of pondering has left me with one idea: I think the key is to hook em together….

When I tried hooking my Lenten practices together for the first time, I noticed I was spending way too much money on purchasing iTunes albums. Plus books and DVDs and magazines. (I’m a media horder, essentially.) So I decided to fast from buying those things. I thought about people who don’t have the easy access to media that I take for granted, especially young kids whose families might not have the sort of disposable income my family had.

So I decided to spend my Lent praying for those kids. To keep it specific, I prayed for children in a few different school communities in lower-income areas that I knew about from teacher friends. Finally, I picked one of the schools whose mission was particularly close to my heart and donated to them about as much as I figured I had saved by fasting from media purchasing during Lent.

It wasn’t revolutionary, but it felt integrated, whole, and worthwhile. Plus, it wasn’t overwhelmingly hard. In fact, it felt easier than other years’ attempts — the unity helped each of the practices support the other two. I actually stuck with it until the end….

So my challenge to you is to think about doing something new this Lent — not necessarily more, but more integrated.