Prayer, almsgiving, and fasting are the three pillars of Lenten observances. After the first full week of Lent, I feel the fruits of each of these. Fasting, especially, has been significant for me. I abstain from meat every Friday all year long, so the Friday fasts of Lent are routine for me. Therefore, I had to find another offering. I spend a great deal of time on the computer as part of my work. Blogging and social network sites are part of my job as a writer. But sometimes, they can be time sinks that squander away time I don't have to waste. One link leads to another which leads to another and so on. I am limiting myself to checking my Facebook newsfeed once daily. I am also not clicking on links unless I think they are pertinent to my job (exceptions made for videos of my grandkids!). No random cat videos. No flash mobs.
In addition, I am using my devotional aids to come up with daily and weekly fasts and sacrifices. For example, avoid advertising for a day to detach from materialism. No flipping through the catalogs that arrived in the mail. No browsing the online shopping sites. No television with commercials. No radio in the car. It was actually quite refreshing to escape the pull on my pocketbook.
This Lent, I am also trying to offer each sacrifice for a specific intention. Certainly, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, the upcoming conclave, and Pope Benedict's successor are worthy intentions. The health and well-being of my husband, children, and grandchildren also merit some of my Lenten sacrifices. There are many friends whom I love and gladly fast for their benefit. But it is also very humbling to fast and sacrifice for various people who are difficult to love or even like. They will never know of my efforts and I may never know of any fruits of my offerings. Skipping a meal for the benefit of someone with whom I find it difficult to carry on a civil conversation challenges my capacity for charity. But to do so also allows me to see this person from a new perspective. It is nearly impossible to dismiss or disregard someone for whom I have prayed so intently.
The words "offer it up" have long been part of the Catholic lexicon. This Lent I am finding it valuable to offer up my sacrifices and penance for the benefit of others. It is a good exercise in humility to make my Lenten exercises focus away from myself. I am sure many have figured this out long ago. I am grateful to have finally found this insight this Lent.