By Seminarian LANCE ENAD, firstname.lastname@example.org
February 28, 2019
Venerable Prosper Guerranger OSB tells us that the principal effect Lent should have in us is the renovation of our spiritual lives. In this sense, a person who comes out of a well spent lent should be a better catholic, a person who loves God more, a person more identical to Jesus Christ.
For most of us, spiritual perfection is the work of a life time. If we at least try to conquer a particular vice or defect and to acquire a particular virtue or to make a particular resolution for each lent, we would at least have a stable growth in our spiritual life – in the spiritual life, mind you, according to St. Augustine, not to move forward is to move backward.
It is a pity though how lent is almost not noticed nowadays and how the spirit of lent is chocked by the thorn bushes of the world. That is why it is interesting how in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite (Tridentine Mass), lent is preceded by Septuagessima season – a prelude to lent – so that the faithful may be better prepared to spend a good lent.
In line with this, here are some things useful to spend a good lent.
Root out a vice or defect. Catholic Spirituality would tell us that each of us have a predominant fault – which is an obstacle in our spiritual life. Lent would be high time to remove these so as to advance in the spiritual life. If for example, one has the vice of intemperance in eating or drinking, lent would be the time to confront this, to purge ourselves of this vice, this capital sin which lead us to much graver sins. It would be a mistake to think that one would give up, let’s say, drinking in lent, and would return to unrestrained drunkenness after lent. A man with the vice of intemperance taking lent seriously should come out of it a man who has, or at least is sincerely trying to have, the virtue of temperance not only for this particular lent, or for this particular liturgical year but for the rest of his life.
Acquire a virtue. St. Augustine tells us that virtue is just another form of Charity – here I do not mean philanthropy but Charity, the theological virtue that has God for its object, that is, the Love of God. St. Francis de Sales also tells us that the devout life – the spiritual life – consists in loving God. In this sense, the renovation of our spiritual life would mean that we would love God more, that we will acquire more virtues – not for their own sake but because they are a means to prove our love for God. For instance, a young man, may use this lent to acquire the virtue of chastity – he would have to do some spiritual reading, a lot of prayer, a lot of mortification, a lot of devotion to the Mother of God during this season of lent to acquire this virtue so threatened by the world today. It is to be noted that virtue for us is not merely the fruit of personal struggle alone but virtue is not possible without the grace of God. If each person, at least in a city, decided to acquire a virtue each year, that city would probably become a city of saints.
Prayer and penance. Lent would be the time to form the habit of prayer or for those with this already, to intensify their prayer. The spiritual life is not possible without prayer. Prayer, apart from being the great means of salvation and spiritual perfection, is the means by which we acquire graces. Without grace, the spiritual life is not possible. Lent would also be the time to acquire or to strengthen the virtue of penance. There are so many reasons to do penance (something I discussed at length in my other essays). It would, perhaps, suffice to say here that lent is the best time to unite ourselves to our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross by means of penance and that the penance, along with prayer, is a pillar of the spiritual life.