A few weeks ago, I began preparing for Lent by deciding what I would give up. As I prayed about this, I had many questions. What should I give up? To what am I too attached? What penances will help me to grow in holiness? As I pondered these questions, a random question came into my head. What do priests give up for Lent?
I had thought about this question before, but I have never found out what priests gives up for Lent. You may have also had this question from time to time. Unfortunately, I do not have any answers as to what the average priest gives up for Lent. It will have to remain a mystery for now. However, I am able to provide insight into the Lenten observances of the seminarians in Old College.
As Old Collegians, we try to respond to the Church’s call for fasting, penance, and alms giving in two ways. First, we have our own private penances. These penances vary greatly. As with most people, these penances revolve around praying more, regular fasting from food, and other penances that are done in private. Our private sacrifices often limit our personal needs and proclivities.
Beyond our personal observances, Old Collegians perform Lenten penances as a community. This year, we are fasting by keeping sweets out of the kitchen. When it is not Lent, Br. Ed Luther, C.S.C., often bakes us cookies, but during Lent, he agrees to make sour dough bread instead.
We pray more by starting Morning Prayer ten minutes earlier. By starting earlier, we have ten more minutes in Eucharistic Adoration. While ten minutes may seem small, it is certainly tough to get up earlier than usual. I especially like this because it helps us to get more prayer in each day.
In addition, we are giving alms by charging 25 cents per soda, as well as going to a local parish for a day to do service work. We will then donate the soda money to the parish that we help out at. Through these penances, we hope to grow in holiness both individually, and as a house.
In addition to fasting, prayer, and giving alms, we went on a retreat this past weekend. Each semester, Old College goes on retreat. This semester, it worked out that the retreat came during the first weekend of Lent. The retreat was about a day and a half, and it was a great time of prayer, relaxation, community building, and reflection. One of my favorite parts of the retreat is the nocturnal Eucharistic Adoration. Each Old Collegian signs up for an hour time slot during the night, and we keep vigil all night. It is a wonderful practice that keeps us focused on the Eucharist.
Old College retreats always have a theme, and the theme for this past retreat was faith. The retreat was very simple and called us to contemplate the roots of our faith. The theme of faith originated from the Year of Faith instituted by Pope Benedict XVI. During the retreat, we learned about spiritual reading as well as reflected on our own faith journeys. We reflected upon where our faith has been, and where it is now. The retreat developed a deeper understanding of the foundations of our faith.
Mr. Mike Marshall is in his second year at Old College Undergraduate Seminary on the campus of Notre Dame. He and his fellow Old Collegians write a post each month for the Spes Unica Blog, sharing on their life and formation in Old College. Read more about life in Old College, and meet the current Old Collegians who are in formation for priesthood and religious life in Holy Cross.