Time to Dial In
Most Catholics have heard the Lenten trinity of practices: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We can rattle it off almost unthinkingly, having heard it so many times over the years — and yet this is the list of the best and strongest practices available to us for living our spiritual lives well. Prayer and fasting can drive out demons (see Mt 17:21; Mk 9:29), and almsgiving covers a multitude of sins (see Sir 3:30; Tob 4:10; 1 Jn 3:17). But which action should we make our first priority?
Of that list, the most indispensable is prayer.
We must pray. Prayer has been described as the oxygen of the soul; without it, our spiritual lives die a suffocating death.
We must pray, even as we are fed on the Eucharist, even as we are washed in Baptism, even as we are sealed as God's in Confirmation, even as we are resurrected in Reconciliation. We must pray as we read the Scriptures, meditating upon the Word in the words, drawing strength and sustenance as we ruminate over the Sacred Text, being transformed by what we read into the image and likeness of God. We must pray, or else God will leave the soul through a thousand little cracks and crevices, for concupiscence makes sin seductive. Original sin allows us to slide ever into the abyss, if we are not always opening ourselves to a divine updraft of the Holy Spirit.
We must pray, or else we will not have the light needed by our darkened intellects, the strength needed by our weakened wills, or the discipline needed by our disordered desires.
The Christian life isn't natural — it's supernatural. In order to live it, we must always be inviting the supernatural grace and life of God into our hearts, minds, and wills. We cannot do this alone, cannot change, cannot become holy and whole on our own — and were never meant to try. A Christian doesn't believe in the self-made man. There's no such animal. All came from God, and all will return to God, even if only to stand before the awesome judgment seat and hear, "Depart from Me, you evildoers — I never knew you."
We were made for God, and so must welcome Him again and again, turning to Him each day in prayer, if we are to begin to live as we were meant to — in joy and peace, in achievement and love, in families and friends, in community and Church, in a communion of persons with no beginning and no end. We must pray, if we are to make it home to heaven in the end, and pray on behalf of others, to bring as many with us as possible.
For this purpose, God gave us the Divine Mercy Chaplet through St. Faustina, along with some extraordinary promises:
Whoever will recite it will receive great mercy at the hour of death (Diary, 687).
When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior (1541).
Priests will recommend it to sinners as their last hope of salvation. Even if there were a sinner most hardened, if he were to recite this Chaplet only once, he would receive grace from My infinite mercy (687).
Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will. (1731)
This Lent, let's pray the chaplet for our own conversion and the salvation of sinners everywhere. Let's take part in the World Day of Prayer on March 6 and beg God for peace in the world through the conversion of individual hearts and minds. Let's ask God for the strength to change, according to His will, and become the saints we were born to be. That's an offer He can't refuse.
Lent Spirituality Series