Dear Vincentian Friends,
The Collect, or opening prayer, for Ash Wednesday Mass reads, “Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.”
I have come to value the Collect, which is a prayer that begins every Liturgy of the Word. It is a prayer written to position us to understand the scripture of the day. Notice that this Ash Wednesday prayer, which liturgically opens Lent, calls this season a “campaign of Christian service.”
This Lent, I am not in the mood to do much fasting. It seems I have already gone out into the desert and have given up a lot. So what value is there to even more deprivation? But this prayer invites me to consider fasting that would strengthen me for a campaign of service. Our Vincentian commitment to a vocation of service certainly has been tested this past year. So maybe this Lent is an appropriate time to rethink and recommit to that vocation. Maybe a new focus on self-restraint and fasting will help me on that journey.
Several years ago, Pope Francis suggested Lenten fasts, even in this year of isolation and deprivation, may improve our ability to serve our neighbors and be credible witnesses to the Kingdom of God. Our Holy Father asked us to:
- Fast from hurtful words and speak kind words.
- Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
- Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
- Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
- Fast from worries and have trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
- Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
- Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
- Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
– Pope Francis (Ash Wednesday 2017)
Let’s all use this blessed season to renew and strengthen our belief in redemption and resurrection, so that we may be signs of hope to those we are called to serve.
Serviens in spe,
National Council President