Ash Wednesday

This Lent we need to make SPACE for God

I find the acronym SPACE helpful as a programme of renewal in my own spiritual life for Lent. The suggestions below are not exhaustive (but may be exhausting!)

S is for Self-denial or Spiritual reading

Lent is the great test of our character and our commitment to self-discipline. We succeed or fail in it, and in doing so we see the true measure of our attachment to the Lord (and our detachment from earthly worldly things) by not only our willingness but our measure of consistency in keeping our Lenten resolutions. Fasting from food is difficult but rewarding. It can mean a significant reduction of food intake, for a prolonged period. We can abstain from certain foods, or eat less than usual. We can abstain from snacking. It can help us to appreciate the food that we eat as well as reminding us of those who are hungry without choice, and to remind us of our duty to provide for them. Fasting and abstinence on Fridays and Wednesdays have always been part of the Irish Christian tradition.

Spiritual reading is also a necessary part of spiritual growth. Particularly recommended to all Catholics is ‘a growing familiarity’ with Sacred Scripture. 'I remind all Chrsitians that our personal and communal relationship with God depends on our growing familiarity with the word of God'. Pope Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, 124)

P is for prayer and penance

Time given to prayer and penance is a particular characteristic of Lent. It may comprise of earlier arrival before and/or later departure after Mass; time spent alone in one’s room in quiet reflection; a day of recollection away for a while in a monastery or retreat centre. Prayer focussed on the Lord’s Passion is extremely beneficial – the Stations of the Cross, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Seven Sorrows of our Lady, the divine Mercy chaplet.

Penance may be a more prompt and faithful diligence in the performance of one’s daily duty; patience in dealing with others as well as patience in coping with the sacrifices demanded of us that come with inconveniences to our plans. It may entail the performance of jobs we have delayed or procrastinated for a long time.

A is for Almsgiving

The Queen of France asked St Vincent de Paul what she could be doing for the poor, and he answered her with one word: ‘more’. The Catechism teaches us that love for the poor comes under the remit of the seventh commandment. The paragraphs numbered 2443-2449 of the Catechism are worth looking up to see our obligations and the proper motivation of Christians in regard to love for the poor.

C is for charity, especially in conversation; and Lenten confession

We need to close our mouths to desserts and fancies and excess, but also to close our mouths (and ears) to gossip, slander, detraction and hearsay. To fast from lack of charity is pleasing to the Lord.
Always associated with Lent is time taken to examine our consciences and to go at least once to confession.

E is for the Eucharist – Mass and adoration.

If the other practices mentioned above are, as it were, the flesh and bones of the practical ways of commemorating the Lord’s 40 day fast in the wilderness, it is renewed and prolonged adoration of his Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist that comprises the heart of Lent. There we renew and deepen our love for Him and come to a greater awareness of understanding His love for us. There we learn how to respond to His love (as well as to see Him) in our neighbour, especially those whose need is great.

‘Lord may be accept from your hands this day of Lent, may we make it yours by deeds of love’(from the Breviary)

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