Sister Margie Lavonis: Lent: A retreat opportunity
Over the years I have heard people say that they wish they had the time to make a retreat or find a way to deepen their spirituality. Many yearn to get closer to God. Lent provides a time for this.
Every year our Church gives us 40 days to reflect on our spiritual lives and to examine and deepen our relationships with God. Like a retreat, Lent can provide us with an opportunity to slow down and take stock of how well we are living our baptismal commitment as disciples of Christ.
The Church suggests that we focus on the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to renew our spiritual lives.
I have found that a good way to examine our prayer lives is to look at how much quality time we give to developing our friendship with the Lord. Maybe our prayer life is limited to Mass on Sunday and a rote prayer before meals, when we remember. Perhaps we pray mostly when we want or need a favor from God.
Let this Lent be different!
No relationship can deepen and grow unless we are willing to listen and share ourselves with the other person. God is no exception.
During Lent, if you don't already, set aside at least 15 to 20 minutes each day to be with God. Go to a quiet place, slow down, and remember that God loves you. Read and reflect upon some scripture each day, seeking out God's wisdom in His words to us. Some find it helpful to use the Mass readings for each day (see page 2). In fact, it would be good to try going to Mass more than just on Sunday. Add another day.
The second Lenten discipline is fasting. Besides fasting and abstaining from meat during Lent, the first thing many of us think of when it comes to fasting is giving up some kind of food, such as candy or ice cream. Abstaining from treats is definitely one way to fast, but there are other approaches you can take that may be more spiritually meaningful for you. It could be more beneficial to fast from gossiping about others, or avoiding conversations that engage in negativity or in tearing down someone's reputation. Another suggestion is to try talking less and become a better listener – both to God and to people who could use some attention. It can be a real exercise in discipline to stop and focus on the other person in a conversation, to really listen to what he or she says, instead of waiting to jump in with what you want to say. We should choose the type of fasting that would most benefit our spiritual lives.
The other traditional Lenten discipline is giving alms. When I was in elementary school, we were given mite boxes to save money for a good cause. That is an important part of Lent, but it is often easier to give our loose change to the poor than to share the precious gifts of our time and talents to those who need them. Lent calls us to give of ourselves, not just our financial and material resources. During Lent we might choose a particular person or cause that could use some of our time. In what ways can we get out of ourselves and think more of others?
Besides our time, another thing we may be called to give during Lent is forgiveness. Who are the people in our lives – whether living or dead – that we need to forgive? From whom do we need to ask forgiveness? It is not easy to be reconciled with someone we hurt or who hurt us, but it can bring a lot of peace to our hearts.
I hope that you will take advantage of this annual opportunity to deepen your faith. Classes, papers, jobs, committees, projects, etc., will pass away, but our relationship with God is forever. Let us get to know and serve God better during these days as we prepare for Easter. Don't let this be just another 40 days of the year. Make each day count.
Sister Margie Lavonis is professed with the Sisters of the Holy Cross in Notre Dame, Ind. To learn more about the Sisters of the Holy Cross, go online to www.cscsisters.org.
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy