“Only for today” Let’s Live This Catholic Way of Life More Deeply

Grant O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.”

from the Collect for  Ash Wednesday

The Homilist at the Mass I attended on Ash Wednesday shared that it struck him that the Collect for the Mass talked about Lent as a campaign of Christian service.  His calling attention to this point caused me to reflect on this season of Lent and how it might be seen as a campaign of Christian Service through the lenses of our Stewardship Pillars.

Generous Hospitality: Invitation, Welcome, Fellowship.  This is perhaps the most obvious of the three.  The practices of Welcome and Invitation are acts of service to another.  For example, we offer others a warm welcome, we extend an invitation to them to participate in an activity at the parish or into a ministry.   Fellowship, the third aspect of Generous Hospitality, also has a strong element of service.  Someone is typically working hard to create the space for fellowship to happen.  Someone is cooking a meal or preparing a place for people to gather, etc. 

But I think we can take this one step further and perhaps should in the season of Lent.  A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting with Sr. Lorane, a Benedictine Sister at St. Martin’s Monastery.  She said,

“Benedictine hospitality has an element in it of giving of your heart to the other.  Also, when guests are welcomed into a Benedictine monastery, St. Benedict asked that they be welcomed into the life of prayer and work that is the religious life. They are invited to experience the monastic life.”

When we extend Generous Hospitality in our homes and in our churches, we are encouraged to have the same mind; to give something of ourselves to the one we are welcoming or inviting, a giving of our time, our full attention, our knowledge, a part of who we are and to know that we are welcoming them more fully into the life of the parish family. We want them to feel as if they belong.

Lively Faith: Prayer, Study, Formation.  Prayer as Christian service could mean that we take the needs of others to prayer.  To be more intentional about lifting others and their needs up to the Lord would be a good practice for Lent.  But I felt challenged to think about how often I pray with only my own needs and desires in mind.  I am challenged by the fact that prayer is the foundation of a relationship between two persons, myself and God.  How often is God the focus of my prayer?  How often is my prayer other-centered, rather than self-centered.  No relationship can be deemed a mature one if my only focus within the relationship is, “how is this person meeting my needs? What is this person doing for me?”  I am challenged to spend time in prayer this Lent with the mind just to be with Jesus, to spend time with Him, to love Him.  Study for its own sake and for our own spiritual growth is good, but perhaps this Lent we could explore ways to extend our learning to others, either by teaching or by inviting others to learn alongside us.  Formation involves the development of virtue in myself and others.  What virtue might I strengthen that would free me to be of service to others?

Dedicated Discipleship: Intentional Love of God and Neighbor.  Lent offers us a beautiful time to be more intentional, to not leave our charity to chance, but to make conscious decisions to express our love of God and others.  One resource I have found helpful in my own life is St. John XXIII’s Decalogue:

Only for today, let’s look for an opportunity to live This Catholic Way of Life more deeply. And tomorrow let’s do the same and so live well through this 40-day “campaign of Christian service” offered to us by the Church.

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