Lenten Aspirations

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The season of Lent is underway! This time of preparation for Easter gives us an opportunity to reexamine and refocus our spiritual lives. We are encouraged to take up individual Lenten observances, usually falling in the traditional categories of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Along with making some kind of sacrifice, hopefully we are also adding something to our spiritual lives. If something we add proves fruitful, we should consider continuing the practice after Lent ends.

One simple practice that can make a significant difference in our spiritual lives is to incorporate short prayers into the midst of our daily schedules. These short prayers, called aspirations, may be just a few words long. They are a momentary pause in what we are doing to turn our attention to God’s presence. The prayer could be a favorite line from Scripture. It could also be a simple “Thank you, Jesus” for some blessing in the day, or a “Help me, Lord!” or “Come, Holy Spirit” when we are about to do something difficult or in a time of temptation. It could even be saying the name Jesus, with an inward glance at Him.

Forming a habit of saying prayers like this throughout the day can transform our daily routine into a continuing dialogue with God, inviting Him into everything we do. This is a way to follow St. Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17). We would also be imitating St. Dominic, who “always spoke either to God or about God” (Brother Paul of Venice, at the canonization proceedings for St. Dominic, 1233).

To form a habit, it helps to attach prayers to particular routine actions or times. Many friars pray when they start their cars: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” I recently reread St. Alphonsus Liguori’s short work, How to Pray at All Times. He gives many suggestions of ways to add moments of prayer to our lives. He especially recommends making an offering of the day when we first wake up and to offer up any work as we set to it. St. Francis de Sales also has many suggestions in this regard in his Spiritual Directory and in his Introduction to the Devout Life where he says, “I should advise you not to tie yourself to any formal words, but rather to speak with heart or mouth whatever springs forth from the love within you, which is sure to supply you with all abundance” (pt. II, ch. XIII).

More than once I have resolved to incorporate these kinds of short prayers into my life, but usually the practice tapers off through forgetfulness. Forming a new good habit, even a simple one like this, is challenging. This Lent, I am re-doubling my effort. I’ll start by saying a short prayer for help.

Lord, help us with our Lenten observances and make them fruitful in bringing us closer to you.

Br. Paschal Strader, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE