What do we do for Lent?
You should not be in buildings teaching or supporting Vatican II, the Revolution
Weapons of Mass Destruction! The aim is to cause maximum disruption of human life – poison in the airports and the subways, terrorist attacks on buildings and bridges, bombs in holy shrines, pandemics of manmade diseases, or nuclear disasters from the sky or through the port cities. “But I say to you, my friends,” says the Lord, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will show you whom you shall be afraid of; be afraid of him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell. Yes, I say to you, be afraid of him” (Lk.12:4-6).
The devil has his Weapons of Mass Destruction, far more dangerous than nuclear weapons. He can stifle, maim or kill the spiritual life in millions of souls at a time. The young face a slow spiritual death in the public schools or the once-Catholic schools. Books can be a very effective WMD when you have millions of people reading them, like the Harry Potter novels. The blasphemous DaVinci Code sold 70 million copies worldwide.
In former times the Church rushed to the defense of her endangered children by maintaining an Index of Forbidden Books, or “The Index,” because she knew that our souls could be easily poisoned by heresy and immorality. But we haven’t heard mention of “The Index” for years. Our “stepmother,” the conciliar church, suppressed it in 1966 under Paul VI, thus opening a “Pandora’s Box” for Catholics. Not that there was a sudden rush to read what was on the Index, but it gave Catholics the idea that they were now free to read anything at all. More freedom, yes, freedom to lose our souls. The Index, however, is still in effect, since our “stepmother” has no authority to veto what has been sanctioned by our true Mother Church. We still need her guidance. Books, like movies and the internet, can be dangerous occasion of sin.
The Church in the United States also maintained the Legion of Decency list, which helped Catholics and others choose movies that were morally acceptable. Those movie studios that wanted a good rating wouldn’t dare produce a movie with even so much as a swear word. But times have changed. There is still some kind of list available, but standards of acceptability have changed so much that it’s hard to know whose judgment one can trust.
But we are not left defenseless. We have our own weapons, more powerful than anything the world or the devil can devise, because they have been given to us by Christ Himself. The Church takes out her “big guns” for Lent – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. With these powerful weapons we can overturn Satan’s kingdom and clear for ourselves a straight path to the Kingdom of God. These three spiritual practices are meant to work together, like the three legs on a three-legged stool. Take away one of them and it doesn’t work. Our Lord does not say, “If you do good deeds… if you pray… if you fast,” but “When you do good deeds… when you pray… when you fast.” Fasting is part of the Christian life. The Angel Raphael, having guarded the young Tobias on his journey, spoke these words to the young man and his father, Tobias: “Prayer is good with fasting and alms, more than to lay up treasures of gold; for alms delivereth from death: and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting” (Tob.12:8,9).
Lent is the time for intensified prayer. Many try to find that one special prayer that will work, as if by magic, perhaps a novena to some saint or other. Such prayers may be acceptable, but prayer is defined very simply by St. Augustine as “the lifting up of the mind and the heart to God.” Prayer must come from the heart. In prayer we are in conversation with God Himself. This does not necessarily mean words. Vocal prayer has its place, but mental prayer is better. Paying loving attention to God by “raising the mind and the heart” is excellent prayer. You don’t have to find the right words. God understands.
Our Lord says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for My sake will save it,” (Luke 9:23,24). Fasting means self-denial primarily in food and drink, but there are many other ways to fast, such as turning off the TV and the radio, or your cellphone. The practice of silence is a penance the Church recommends. “Those who live according to the flesh are intent on the things of the flesh; those who live according to the spirit, on those of the spirit” says St. Paul (Rom.8:5).
We read in the Book of Proverbs: “The kindly man will be blessed, for he gives of his sustenance to the poor” (Prov.22:9). Our Lord says of Almsgiving and of the blessings that ensue: “Sell what you have and give alms. Make for yourselves purses that do not grow old, a treasure unfailing in heaven, where neither thief draws near nor moth destroys” (Lk.12:33). “Whoever gives to one of these little ones but a cup of cold water to drink because he is a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mt.10:42). “Give to everyone who asks of thee… give, and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they pour into your lap. For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you” (Lk.6:30;38).
Almsgiving refers in the first place to giving, but the Church has provided us with a “good deeds” list – the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal Works of Mercy: to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to shelter the homeless; to visit the sick; to ransom the captive; to bury the dead. The Spiritual Works of Mercy: to instruct the ignorant; to counsel the doubtful; to admonish the sinner; to bear wrongs patiently; to forgive offenses willingly; to comfort the afflicted; to pray for the living and the dead. Examine this list and you will find good deeds that you can do every day.