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Today is the first day of Lent, dear Friends,
Over the next 40 days, we are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ. He spent this time in the wilderness, fasting and enduring the temptation of Satan. Whilst Catholics may no longer fast in the traditional way, we do need to mark the special days of Lent with some form of fasting and abstinence, which follows the example of Jesus.
Alcohol, chocolate and coffee are popular things to give up for Lent, as well as habits such as partying or smoking. In today’s technological age, you might also consider giving up social media. Whatever you decide, fasting and abstaining from something you enjoy is a form of penance that promotes spiritual growth.
But beyond fasting and abstinence, those of us who want to experience a Lent that has a positive impact on the way we live our Christian life, should also take up at least one positive act for each of the days between Ash Wednesday (6 March) and Holy Saturday (20 April).
Here are some ideas:
– Do a practical act of kindness such as letting someone go ahead of you in the supermarket queue, or into the traffic flow at rush hour, calling someone who is lonely, volunteering to help at a soup kitchen or other outreach programme;
– Clean out your wardrobes and donate unwanted items to someone in need, or to your parish St Vincent de Paul Society;
– Fast from spending on new clothes, gadgets, or entertainment, then donate the money you save to Lenten Appeal which helps the poor and needy directly;
– Take your children grocery shopping for the poor. Let them help you bring the food to your parish feeding scheme or SVDP;
– Encourage children to light a candle for people throughout the world who are sick, hungry or oppressed;
– Spend an extra few minutes every day in prayer and thanksgiving.
There are many poor people in need in our parishes, areas, communities. Although you may not be able to be with them in person, you can share with them in spirit. Your offering to Lenten Appeal and your Parish’s special outreach to the needy.
In return for your kindness the Lord is sure to give you an even bigger share in his suffering, death and resurrection.
Happy Lent, and a glorious Easter to you all!
+ Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM
Archbishop of Durban