In the post-Vatican II Church, the season of Lent has been re-imagined and reinterpreted many times and still we cannot ignore the fact that Lent is a penitential season. Several years ago, a new trend developed in the Church where people would no longer “give something up” for Lent, rather they would do something more during Lent. Instead of giving up chocolate or French fries for example, some people try to volunteer more or become more active in the community during Lent. This is a noble endeavor based on giving rather than deprivation; I understand the appeal of this spiritual practice.
And yet, we must never forget that Lent is our personal time in the desert, our time to look within and rid ourselves of excess. Like Christ, we are given forty days for deep soul searching. Like Christ, we are called to a little personal deprivation.
What do we mean when we talk about fasting or deprivation during Lent? Below are some ways that you can incorporate the penitential flavor of Lent into your Adult Faith Formation programming:
- Try to cut out the sweets for Adult Faith Formation events during Lent. Simple bread or crackers will suffice.
- Begin each Adult Faith Formation session with prayer and meditation. Be sure to leave time for silent reflection.
- Provide prayer booklets for the adults in your parish to aid them in daily prayer and reflection.
- Encourage adults in your parish to be more mindful during Lent about what we need and what is excess. This can apply to food, shopping purchases, etc.
- Offer small group discussion groups on different topics related to Lent -- patience, service, prayer, abundance, trust.
- In a corner of the parish bulletin write a short weekly reflection for adults and families to discuss on their way from Mass. Be sure to include discussion questions for the car ride home.
- To aid parishioners in almsgiving, work with your Social Justice coordinator to list all of the places in your community and beyond that need financial donations to be successful. Make this list available on a church bulletin board or highlight one social service agency or non-profit organization each week of Lent in the bulletin.
- Be sure to offer no other programs or events outside of the liturgy during Holy Week. This is a time for adults and families to prepare for the most important days in the Church year, the Triduum.