Lent is fast approaching and we will be preparing our catechumens and candidates for the final stages of their preparations for the Sacraments of Initiation.
Crucial elements in that are the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In the diocese, we have developed resources on the theme of Tempted – Transfigured – which are taken from the Gospels of the first two Sundays of every Lent. (You can find them here: http://www.rcdhn.org.uk/spirituality/spirituality_lent2015.php) The theme is appropriate for every Christian, of course, but may be particularly helpful for people in this important stage of their faith journey.
In prayer, we are called to acknowledge and face up to the temptations that beset us – and to pray for transformation and transfiguration. As well as considering using the resources, you might like to teach your catechumens and candidates about the Examen. This is a traditional practice linked to an examination of conscience but is much greater. In terms of our theme it could look like this:
- Begin by going back over your day and think about the things that God has placed there that you are grateful for. Make a note and thank God for them.
- Now look back – honestly and without fear – over the things that have tempted you – particularly when you have given in to them. Face them and then hand them to God with sorrow and an openness to trying to put things right insofar as you can the following day (or when possible).
- Go back again to the gifts God gave – and the temptations (including the ones you overcame)… How has this day transformed you just that little bit more into the person God desires you to be? Again, give thanks.
You could also mention that fasting – the practice of giving things up – helps us to practise overcoming temptation and, after six weeks, we may find ourselves a little further transformed by our self-discipline.
And alms-giving helps in that process too – taking us out of temptation to focus on me and my needs and to be aware of the ways in which my offerings can transform the lives of others.
As Pope Francis reminds us in his Lenten message (available here: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-lenten-message-2015) we are called to pray that our hearts might be transformed – transfigured to be more like that of Jesus – and Lent is a time to make that prayer for renewal that bit more real.