During the season of Lent, Mother Church invites us to share in the passion and sacrifice of Christ through three traditional practices: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. For the next three weeks, we will reflect on these practices and how they aid us in our spiritual growth. Prayer is the heart and soul of our faith. This is true in two ways. Firstly, as ecclesial prayer and secondly as personal prayer. Ecclesial prayer is the worship offered by the Church specifically through the sacraments. Above all others, it is the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist that constitutes the epicenter of religion and provides the basis for Christian experience. Through the Eucharist, which is the act of Christ offering Himself within the Church, our faith transcends the realm of mere memory becoming instead an active sharing in the very life of God. There is no prayer an individual soul can offer that is more pleasing or precious to the Father than the unitive prayer offered by His Son’s Mystical Body, the Church. Although this is especially true in regards to the Holy Mass, it is also true for the other sacraments of the Church particularly the sacrament of reconciliation. During the season of Lent, Catholics are invited to integrate the sacraments into their daily lives as much as possible. Regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament, frequent reception of Holy Communion, routinely going to confession–these are all strongly encouraged as Lenten devotions. In addition to these sacramental practices, the reading of Sacred Scripture, studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church and learning about the lives of the Saints is also suggested.
Flowing from this ecclesial prayer and always in conjunction with it is personal prayer. Many Catholics nowadays lack an active prayer life. They might offer a prayer at meals or say a Hail Mary before going to bed, but that’s about it. As spiritual beings composed of body andsoul, we must have a healthy spiritual life. It is necessary to our existence as humans. What is more, when we fail to put effort into our spiritual lives, we miss out on the most beautiful relationship any human being can experience: a relationship with God. Animals can build relationships with members of their own species and sometimes members outside their species. But, only humanity can relate to the Divine. Only the human soul can willingly meet God. The Lenten season is a prime opportunity to awaken this aspect of our humanity in a newfound way. As we enter into Lent, let us ask for the grace to grow as people of prayer both with the Church and within our own hearts.