We all know that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are what the church refers to as the three pillars of Lent. But we can all use a refresher now and then and get some ideas on how to live out those pillars in our own lives this Lenten season.

Our first pillar is PRAYER
This one should be the easiest of the three. As Christians we are supposed to be praying anyway, so why make it a requirement? Because the sad truth is that many Christians do not pray, at least not with any regularity. This Lent I offer you this challenge; increase your prayer life. Try adding one or two of these ideas to your life:

  • Start with the basics. Pray everyday. Start the morning with a prayer. Or pray before you fall asleep.
  • If you already praying everyday, just add a few more minutes.
  • Add a prayer for priests. Pray for Fr. Rick especially, Archbishop Hebda, and Pope Francis too.
  • Take advantage of the Lenten materials on the table outside of our sanctuary that are specifically designed to help you enrich your personal prayer during Lent.
  • Join us for the Rosary in the chapel every Monday at 6:00pm.
  • Attend the Stations of the Cross Fridays at 7:00pm in the church.
  • Visit the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel for some quiet time. It is open daily from 8:00am to 8:00 pm.

I know it may sound like a lot, especially for this busy world we live in, but give a couple of those a try. Do what you can, but just keep working towards more prayer.

Our second pillar is FASTING
Why do we fast? Well, fasting goes very well with prayer. It’s like salt and pepper, they just work well together. One reason is that by fasting we deny our appetites and we can focus more intensely on our prayer.
Another reason the Church encourages both fasting and abstinence, is to show solidarity with the poor. For many centuries the poor didn’t have access to meat on a regular basis like the rich did. Today meat is still expensive, so when we skip a meal or abstain from eating meat, it lets us walk a mile in their shoes and learn to empathize with the plight of the poor.
But, there are other ways you could try to fast that don’t involve food, and these ways may even be more challenging and uncomfortable:

  • Try limiting your social-media exposure, or fasting from the 24-hour news networks. Give up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In a word, unplug.

Lent is a time to fast from those things and habits that may have become a roadblock to our relationship with Christ.

Our last pillar is ALMSGIVING
It’s my favorite pillar. Why? Because it already is prayer, AND it involves fasting.
Almsgiving is a form of prayer because it is actually giving of yourself to God — it’s not just charity. It is a form of fasting because it demands sacrificial giving — not just giving something, but giving up something, giving till it hurts. We have three ways you can give Alms at St. Edward this Lenten season: The Lenten Giving Tree, by giving Financial Gifts, and with Volunteer Opportunities.

Lenten Giving Tree
For the season of Lent, we are collecting basic cleaning supplies for the Cornerstone Emergency Shelter. They will distribute them to families that are moving out of their shelters and into permanent housing. Simply choose a tag or two from the tree, purchase the items on the tag, and drop off the donations in the designated bin.

Financial Gifts
The Church of St. Edward has selected two charities to support this year with your almsgiving. Along with our local charity, VEAP, we’ve chosen a global charity, Catholic Relief Services. Currently, CRS and its partner organization Caritas, are on the ground in the Ukraine providing shelter, hot meals, transportation, hygiene supplies and more essential services to our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine.
Financial donations to VEAP or CRS  may be dropped in the Almsgiving basket, or placed in the drop box in the chapel foyer. If you are giving by check, please indicate “Almsgiving” on the memo line. Cash donations should be placed in an envelope marked “Almsgiving.”
Every year we also do a special collection on Holy Thursday, which has traditionally been for the Bishop Dudley Emergency Fund. This year it will also support the new Fr. Mike Tegeder Fund. While the Dudley Fund gives emergency assistance to individuals in financial crisis, the Tegeder Fund supports local non-profit organizations who are raising funds for specific projects in our community. The Tegeder Committee utilizes a grant request process, and meets quarterly to review the applications. If you know of a non-profit that might be interested in receiving a grant from the Tegeder Fund you can direct them to THE TEGEDER FUND page, where there is a link to the grant request form.

Volunteer Opportunities
The St. Edward Loaves & Fishes team prepares and distributes meals on the third Thursday of each month at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington. Two shifts are available; 2:30-4:30pm or 4:30 to 6:30pm.
Visit our ONLINE SIGNUP page to volunteer for a shift.
Another great volunteer opportunity is with the Bloomington Wheels on Meals program. Drivers deliver low-cost, hot, nutritious meals, during the noon hour, to  elderly, ill or disabled persons who are unable to shop or prepare meals for themselves. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer driver to bring nutritious meals to the homebound please contact Mia Ah Sani in the parish office.

So, those are the three pillars. The biggest thing that they all have in common is that we should be doing them already, they aren’t something special that we do only for Lent. We only increase these virtues during Lent, and hopefully it carries over for the rest of the year.

Peace be with you this Lenten season.

Written by Mia Ah Sani, Director of Pastoral Care & Coordinator of Social Justice & Charity