This is the last in a three-part series on the Lenten duties of almsgiving, fasting, and prayer.
As a way of finishing off these 15 strategies for Lent, I submit these ideas about prayer.
1. Say three extra “Hail Mary’s” throughout the day.
We all have different prayer lives. Some of us are more easily able to make it to Mass than others. Some of us are in the habit of saying a daily Rosary and some are trying to get to that stage. But wherever you are in your spiritual life, three extra Hail Mary’s takes an extra 3 minutes a day.
It’s not much time, but it is a way of letting Mary know that you are thinking about her throughout the day. And it’s worth remembering that one “Hail Mary” said well is worth more than a full Rosary said with indifference and neglect. Consider the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote:
(I)n ancient times it was an especially great event when an angel appeared to men, so that men might show them reverence…But it was never heard that an angel showed reverence to a man until he saluted the Blessed Virgin, saying reverently, “Hail.”
When you show reverence to Mary, take your time. Think about the words you are saying. Think about how much you love her. Think about how much she loves you.
2. Pray for the intentions of Pope Francis.
When I am tempted to think back on the sins of my life and become fearful about my soul, I think of the mercy that God shows us through plenary indulgences.
As the Catholic Encyclopedia explains:
The total remission of punishment for my sins? I like that a lot.
In addition to the other requirements for this indulgence (the state of grace, the sacrament of Penance, “the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin,” reception of Holy Communion), the Church requires another: prayers for the intentions of the Pope.
You do not have to know what the intentions of the pope are, but you do have to pray for them. In terms of gaining a plenary indulgence, these prayers are not a suggestion, but a requirement. No prayers for the intentions of the Pope equals no plenary indulgence.
3. Tell God You Love Him.
Growing up in an alpha-male family of seven brothers, the words “I love you” were not readily on my lips. Once I got married, I had to learn to let Lisa know I loved her by telling her. Jesus wants to hear that we love Him as well. Several times during the day, especially when you are tempted, simply say: “Jesus, I love you.” That is a wonderful prayer.
4. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
Though the devotion to the mercy of God has always been a wonderful constant in ecclesiastical history, the Divine Mercy Chaplet has fostered a wonderful renaissance in the past century. Said using the beads of a rosary, the prayers take just a few minutes, but they lift our souls to God.
5. Say the Stations of the Cross.
Lent is a time in which we should meditate on the passion and death of Jesus. What better way to do so than saying the fourteen stations of the Cross? When I was growing up, I seem to remember thinking that I had to be in a church to pray the stations. But you can say them anywhere, repeating this wonderful prayer:
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.
That, my friends, is the message of Lent.
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