God is always so good that constantly He showers us with the most abundant graces. His Church, which is called His Mystical Body, incessantly rains down upon us a torrential downpour of graces. This is manifest in a very special way in the Church Liturgical cycle, most specifically in the Strong-Seasons—both Advent leading to Christmas and Lent culminating in Holy Week and the Solemnity of all Solemnities, Easter!
BE PREPARED! Most certainly it has happened to all of us that we are absorbed and immersed in so many activities—family, social and work—that these great seasons of grace sweep by us like a lightning bolt and we find that we have barely entered into the depths of the ocean abyss of graces knocking at the door of our hearts. The Book of Revelation warns us: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; whoever opens the door, I will come in and dine with him and he with me.” (Rev. 3:19) The great Saint Augustine expounds upon this idea and comments that Jesus is the Pilgrim who knocks and if we do not open the door, He will move on and never come in to visit us. God forbid that this be so for us!
Therefore, we will offer ten specific prayers that we can offer to the Lord as we celebrate His greatest act of love for all of humanity and for each of us individually—His Passion, suffering, death and Resurrection! Blunt and to the point: if we want to really live a fruitful Lent so as to die to our own passions, disordered desires and intentions, and sin in general, the key to victory is immersing ourselves in deep, intense, fervent and constant prayer. May this be the best Lent of our lives!
1. CONTEMPLATE THE CROSS—JESUS CRUCIFIED. One form of prayer, highly recommended by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, is that of CONTEMPLATION. Therefore, every day of Lent spend at least some time in front of an image, painting, depiction of Jesus hanging on the cross for love of you and me. Call to mind the words of Saint Ignatius: Jesus died for all of humanity. However, He also died for you. If you were the only person in the world, Jesus would have suffered the most bitter and agonizing details of His Passion and death for love of you and the salvation of your immortal soul. How precious you are in the eyes of God and of what value is your immortal soul!
2. WAY OF THE CROSS. Another salutary and efficacious prayer-devotion, especially propitious in the Season of Lent, is making the Way of the Cross. In your local Parish most likely there is the Way of the Cross in the Church itself. Just move slowly, prayerfully, and with contemplative eyes from each one of the 14 stations to the next. This practice can be done in many ways: 1) In a group setting guided by a leader; 2) Individually using a helpful booklet. One of the best was written by Saint Alphonsus Liguori; 3) Simply gaze and contemplate with love and devotion every station and formulate your own spontaneous prayer. Not a bad idea to bring your little ones and teach them to love Jesus who loved us so much that He underwent and endured all of these sufferings for love of us.
3. THE SEVEN SORROWS OF MARY. In all times and places the meditation and contemplation of the Seven Sorrows of Mary can move our hearts to love Jesus with greater fervor and devotion. If you are not familiar with this practice, these are the seven sorrows of Mary: 1) Prophecy of Simeon, 2) Flight into Egypt, 3) Loss of Jesus for three days in the Temple, 4) Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way to Calvary, 5) Crucifixion and Death of Jesus, 6) Jesus’ Body taken from the cross and laid in the arms of Mary (La Pieta), 7) Burial of Jesus. You might even consider purchasing my book Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary through the Mysteries of the Rosary…with meditations on the Seven Sorrows of Mary (Sophia Press).
4. THE SEVEN LAST WORDS OF JESUS FROM THE CROSS. Another powerful meditation would be that of meditating upon the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen both wrote and preached numerous times on these words, especially during Holy Week. These seven last words are the following: 1) “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” 2) “I thirst!” 3) “Woman behold thy son; son behold thy Mother.” 4) “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” 5) “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” 6) Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” 7) “It is finished.”
5. READ AND MEDITATE ON THE PASSION ACCOUNTS IN THE FOUR GOSPELS. Delve into the most authentic sources of the Passion, suffering and death of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and that is the Bible, the four Gospels. They can be found in these Chapters: Matthew 26-27, Mark 14-15, Luke 22-23, John 18-19. You might read all the accounts and pray over them, noting the different details and slight nuances in each Gospel.
6. PSALM 22. It is truly fascinating, the reading and meditation of Psalm 22 in the Old Testament. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, this Prophetic Psalm highlights many of the details of the Passion of Jesus and His sufferings, hundreds of years before Jesus was even born! Another reason for believing in the reality of Jesus being truly the Son of the Eternal Father! Read this Psalm carefully and you will feel as if you are being transported to the very foot of the cross with Mary, John and the Magdalene on Good Friday!!!
7. THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS. By far the most powerful, efficacious and pleasing prayer that we can offer to God is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Indeed, what is the Mass—nothing other than the Sacrifice of Calvary in which Jesus offers Himself to the Father for the salvation of all of humanity through the power of the Holy Spirit. If possible, attend daily Mass in Lent and receive the Eucharist worthily and with great love and devotion.
8. MOVIES/DVDs: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, MARCELINO PAN Y VINO aka THE MIRACLE OF MARCELINO (1955 version), THE MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY (PATRICK PEYTON). Another strong exhortation, in the vein or realm of contemplative prayer would be to view one of these movies, if not all of them. However, put on your contemplative lenses and strive to view them not so much as a Hollywood rendition, but rather as a contemplative prayer. The images, especially those in The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson) will be engraved in your memory and can be elicited for contemplation when you go to your Holy Hour, and that brings us to the next suggestion to live out the most fruitful of Lent’s in our lives….
9. THE HOLY HOUR—THE HOUR OF POWER. Be generous with the Lord Jesus, who gave every drop of His Precious Blood for you. Strive, if at all possible, to make a daily Holy Hour. Sheen calls it The Hour of Power!!! Ideally speaking, it is best to do it in front of the Blessed Sacrament where Jesus is truly and substantially present in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. If this is not feasible, then in some quiet place in your home—your prayer-corner or home-sanctuary. This practice will transform your life!
10. THE MOST HOLY ROSARY—THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES. Pope Saint John Paul II in his Marian-Masterpiece “The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary” suggests that we contemplate the Face of Jesus through the eyes of Mary. What better method to contemplate Jesus, the man of sorrows hanging from the cross, than through the eyes of Mary. To refresh your memory, the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary are the following: 1) The Agony in the Garden; 2) The Scourging at the Pillar; 3) The Crowning with Thorns; 4) The Carrying of the Cross; 5) The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus.
In conclusion, it is our prayer and most ardent desire that all our readers will have their most fruitful Season of Lent culminating in the most immense joy of Easter and the Risen Lord Jesus, by striving to implement these Lenten prayer practices. May we all die to sin and rise to life with Jesus and Mary!