Lent: a time of conversion, fasting, prayer and charity
The Saint Church teaches us that, over the Lent period, a strong time for conversion, the faithful are invited to express, in the most vibrant and concrete manner, three elements that strengthen the spirit and search for personal sanctification, by means of forgiving the sins: the fasting, the prayer and the acts of charity (among them, the alms).
In Catholic catechism, we find multiple references about alms (a gesture of charity), the practice of fasting (a gesture of surrender) and the experience of prayer (a gesture of hope) in Lent time. All these actions are complemented with a principal one, the penitence, an act to express total conversion to God.
In items 1434 and 1438, Catechism establishes that the practice of charity gestures, in the 40 days of Lent, contributes to the “radical purification operated by baptism” as a manner to forgive all sins, when we demonstrate our effort to reconcile with our closest ones. Thus, every act of solidarity conducted for the needed is a reflection of fraternal charity, and is also a practice of justice that pleases God.
The practice of charity, according to the 1st Letter of Saint Peter (chapter 4, verse 8), “covers a multitude of sins”. Also according to the catholic doctrine: “these times are particularly appropriated for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, peregrinations as a sign of regret, voluntary privations through fasting, as well as alms and fraternal sharing (as charity and missionary works)”.
We will address these three aspects in the following lines. First, about prayer: we cannot forget that it is the foundation of the Christian faith. It is impossible to maintain a dialog with God that is not done through the prayer. The Christ, when interrogated by one of its disciples on how he could “dialog” with God, taught us the prayer of Our Father.
In regards to fasting, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that “the faithful will observe fast according to the church”. Moreover: “the physical attitude (manners and movements) are ought to translate respect, solemnity and the joy of the moment in which Christ become our host”.
On alms, we should underline that the practice has been unfortunately let down in the materialistic society we live in. But what we also want with this practice is to enlighten the human heart with charity and sharing, feelings that can be manifested not only by money donation, but also through a friendly word, an advice, a smile. Sharing what we have is a good example of alms.
As such, the moment of Lent is a good opportunity for Vicentine Conferences to develop campaigns in churches, chapels and communities, inviting faithfuls to practice Charity as a concrete sign of this period in which the Church asks to all those for a life of conversion, penitence and hope in the Eastern of the Lord.
The message I leave to Vicentines from all over the world, over the days of Lent, when we are called for a practice more perfected of our exercise of faith, in which we seek to live, in a time of total gathering with the Divine, elevating our heart to God by means of fasting, charity and prayer. As such, we will be preparing for the Eastern of the Lord.
Confrere Renato Lima de Oliveira
16th General President