By Terry McCafferty ’22
One way to think of Lent is as a journey: an approximately forty day journey from winter to spring, sin to salvation, and darkness to light. Pope Francis recently wrote that it is a journey toward “faith, hope, and love”. It is an opportunity for us to restore our commitment to what is right, rediscover our spirituality, and renew our dedication to the parts of our lives that matter the most. Living through COVID makes these messages more pertinent than ever and this time to recenter ourselves more needed because so many parts of our lives have been thrown off balance and for many people there has been so much darkness, sadness, and loneliness in the past year.
In his Lenten message for 2021, Pope Francis also wrote that, “Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion.” In other words, it is through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that we make this journey. Accordingly, for three weeks this column will be focusing on each of the three pillars of Lent. Last week, the focus was on fasting, and this week it will be on prayer.
Like deciding what we need to free ourselves from during Lent through fasting, deciding how we should make prayer a special part of our lives during this time is also a very personal decision. Each of us has a different relationship with prayer. But this Lent, try to discern what way or ways put you most in touch with God and your inner self.
Some ways to consider are daily mass, sitting alone in a quiet space, writing in a journal, reading the Bible, praying the rosary, lighting a candle in the Chapel, going on a walk or outside, praying right as you fall asleep, and praying right as you wake up. In the stress of daily life, it can be super easy to forget about taking any time for quiet, reflection, meditation, or prayer. Even during morning prayer and the Examen, it is easy for our minds to wander to other things. But taking the time can bring immense benefit to our lives, especially if you find a way to do it that makes you feel peaceful, connected, loved, fulfilled, and whole in your being.
When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher, Mrs. Gill (wife of John Gill ‘97 who works at Saint Ignatius), taught my class a way to pray called the ALTAR prayer. It is a structure for unstructured prayer covering five of the main purposes of prayer: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, petition, and repentance. I like this prayer because it can be what it is made out to be, but it still is enough of a guide so that the person praying does not feel lost:
- Adore – adore God (adoration)
- Love – love God (praise)
- Thank – thank God (thanksgiving)
- Ask – ask God (petition)
- Repent – reflect on your sins and resolve how you intend to become better (repentance)
Prayer can also be incredibly meaningful when it is done with other people and there are many ways on campus to do this. Mass is held every day in St. Mary’s Chapel at 11:20 during the common period. Gonzaga Society prays for the sick on Tuesdays from 7:30-7:45. Ignatians for Life also prays the rosary during 5th period in the Companions Chapel (across from the Admissions Office) every Wednesday. We also have an amazing Campus Ministry team and our Jesuit priests on campus who would both probably be more than happy to help you find more ways to pray if you reach out to them.
Even for those of us who do not believe anyone hears our prayers, the benefits of taking time alone to reflect are immense, and perhaps you will feel a connection, a spark, a voice within you calling you toward something deeper.
The act of praying is an act of faith. It is an act of feeling as much as thinking. It is an act of listening as much as talking. It can be very hard to hear with all of the things in our lives drowning out the responses to our prayers. But at the end of the day, we have the ability to make prayer our own and to make it so connected to who we are that it can cut through our stress, anger, and pain, and help us become better at living the lives we live.
Hopefully, at least a few of the ideas in these three Lent-themed columns will spark a thought or give you at least a bit of inspiration. To all of our readers who are beginning their Lenten journey this year, many blessings, and may the light of Christ guide your way toward greater fulfillment and renewal.
– No. 4 –
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‘At the End of the Day’ is a weekly column written by Terry McCafferty ‘22. Each week focuses on a different topic often related to politics, faith, culture, or society at large.