Three Ways to a Lenten Fast
What are you giving up for Lent?
A few weeks ago I stared at my computer as a Facebook status altered my perception of reality. “Three weeks until Lent,” it said. “Three weeks,” I thought, “and I have no idea what I’m doing!” Soon after, I began to hear murmurs among my fellow church members. “What are you giving up?” asked one. “What are you doing for Lent?” asked another. I even heard a long list of Lenten sacrifices read off by a family friend: “Cold showers, sleeping on the floor once a week, doing some type of service each week...” This was followed by a discussion of how many sacrifices were okay to give up and when it became too much to actually be able to follow.
Whew. Just by writing the above I feel a little stressed out. I’m sure you do, too. Thankfully, you can look no further than the three bullet points below to help you take control of your Lenten fast.
1. Allow yourself to be a beginner.
We can quickly get into “What is the biggest sacrifice I can make?” or “What’s going to get me to heaven the quickest?”
While this realm of thought leads you towards sacrifice or mortification, it leaves out the aspect of virtue. Verso L’Alto (Towards the top) is an expression commonly linked to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He scribbled this phrase on the back of a photo of him climbing a mountain one month before his death. This photo documents the last thing he climbed, and the joy on his face gives the phrase even more depth. He constantly strived to reach the summit of eternal life, to climb towards the top. His sacrifice to climb included growing in virtue. Virtue for Frassati didn’t mean taking the biggest step possible to get up the mountain faster. He started out as a beginner, taking one step at a time and building up his stamina to go further. Frassati’s small steps changed his ways to God’s ways. Meditate on the climb, and focus on one thing. What will bring you towards virtue and help you climb the mountain? What is the first step? He rewards even our smallest efforts.
2. You’ve got a friend in me.
Frassati didn’t climb alone. It’s documented that not only did he climb with others, he kept tabs on them throughout the climb. If someone was struggling, he would attract attention to himself so as not to embarrass or point out his struggling companion. He would say that he needed to take a rest or needed to go slower. During the climb he would give his friends things to focus on as well, such as a song or an invitation to prayer. Like Frassati and his friends, look for a good friend or family member for accountability during Lent. They can check in on how you’re doing, help you overcome the moments when you just want to give up, and likewise they need your help as well!
3. Embrace the journey.
It’s Friday and you just ate those Chik-fil-a nuggets. You remember at the last bite and almost choke when realizing. Allow yourself to be okay with failing. A little stumbling during the climb happens. Frassati wasn’t always successful at climbing. It took time, muscle building, and practice to perfect the sport. Like Frassati many saints have tried, failed, suffered, tried again, and suffered some more to reach perfection: heaven. They figured out a way to get to the top of the mountain by being completely enamored by Christ. They loved him so much that they pushed their bodies, minds, and wills past their limits. Through time, with effort, and with God’s will they successfully made it. However, it was matched with great suffering. We follow their lead and embrace their steps. Instead of looking at the fast as something ridiculously painful, look at it as an embrace. A time to express our mad love to the big man upstairs. Forty days prepare us for the resurrection of our Lord and Savior... so what are we waiting for? Wipe the sweat off those hands and get started! Verso L’Alto!
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Three Ways to a Lenten Fast
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