The Rector writes …
The three traditional elements in our Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The latter two are bound together in that what we save through our acts of self-denial can be used to bring benefit to our neighbour . That is true of the money we are not spending unnecessarily during this penitential season which can be channelled to the needy but it is also true in terms of the time that becomes available (e.g. by cutting down on the amount of time we spend online or the amount of television we watch) which can then be used in the service of others. What about the relative or person along the street we have been meaning to visit or renew contact with? A phone call or a letter? Acts of charity can take many forms but the simplest are often the most effective. A bit more time for God and a bit more time for those around us – two resolutions for a good Lent.
As Christians, our prayer is at its most authentic when we take up the themes of Jesus’ own praying. The Gospels were not intended as a spiritual biography, but the prayer of Jesus will be found running through them like a leit motif. Before any significant event our Lord is shown going off to pray quietly – sometimes for whole nights, often in a remote place where there is a wide expanse of view i.e. a hillside. In Saint John’s Gospel we have the ultimate response to the Disciples’ request “teach us how to pray” in that great prayer of the Last Supper where the Son pours out his heart to his Father.
In the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent we reflect on that long retreat Jesus made in the wilderness before emerging onto the public stage. In this time of temptation, as he struggled with his own demons and with the objective force of evil, it is clear that prayer was an agony for the incarnate Son of God – as it would be again in that more focused horror of Gethsemane. If Jesus could at times find his own prayer tiring and painful, we should not be surprised when our own praying is far from easy. Perhaps we need to learn – with Jesus, like Jesus -that it is sometimes in those moments when we feel most abandoned that our communion with God can achieve a new depth and strength.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church remind us: “from the very beginning of the Church there were men and women who set out to follow Christ with greater liberty, and to imitate him more closely by practising the evangelical counsels: different religious orders have come into existence in which spiritual resources are multiplied for the progress in holiness of their members and for the good of the entire Body of Christ”. In this parish we are particularly conscious of the long witness given by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, while, once again on one of the Saturdays of Lent those who are part of this year’s adult instruction group will spend an afternoon at the Notting Hill Carmel where one of the nuns will talk about the Carmelite way of living religious life and offer insights into their way of praying.
If the active mission of the Church is to be as efficacious it should be, both in terms of evangelisation and of social outreach, then it needs to have its roots firmly established in God. “History witnesses to the outstanding service rendered by the religious communities in the propagation of the faith and the formation of new Churches: from the ancient monastic institutions to the medieval orders, all the way to the more recent congregations” (Saint John Paul 11). As part of our scheme of personal devotion and good works this Lent we might well include an intention for vocations to religious life in general and, more especially, from our own parish. “Keep your soul in peace. Let God work in you. Welcome thoughts that raise your heart to God. Open wide the window of your soul” (Saint Ignatius of Loyola).