This Lent here are some suggestions of things to abstain from to better live this season according to Pope Francis!
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Lent marks the 40 days leading up to Easter where Catholics are called to fast and abstain from certain things in preparation for the celebration of victory over sin and death. Here are 7 suggestions taken from Pope Francis’ messages, addresses, and homilies!
1Abstain from avoiding God
“Lent is indeed the ‘favorable time’ to return to what is essential, to divest ourselves of all that weighs us down, to be reconciled with God, and to rekindle the fire of the Holy Spirit hidden beneath the ashes of our frail humanity,” said Pope Francis during his homily of the Ash Wednesday Mass on February 22, 2023.
The Pontiff explained that “the rite of the imposition of ashes serves as the beginning of this return journey,” which reminds us “who is the Creator and who is the creature.” This journey leads us to “the truth about ourselves,” and helps us emerge “from the fortress of our self-sufficiency.” It is an opportunity to “return to God and to our brothers and sisters.”
2Abstain from spiritual arrogance
During his Sunday Angelus address on October 23, 2022, Pope Francis warned against “spiritual arrogance,” that makes us put ourselves before others and before God. It stops us from going towards others : “Where there is too much ‘I,’ there is too little God.”
“We all run the risk of falling into this trap. It leads you to believe that one is righteous and to judge others. […] Without realizing it, you adore your own ego and obliterate your God. It revolves around oneself. This is prayer without humility,” he explained. “Let us ask the intercession of Mary Most Holy, the humble servant of the Lord, the living image of what the Lord loves to accomplish, overthrowing the powerful from their thrones and raising the humble.”
3Abstain from digital media platforms
In his 2022 Lent message Pope Francis said this liturgical period is perfect for resisting the temptation of digital media, “which impoverishes human relationships.” He encouraged cultivating “authentic encounters face-to-face.”
This is a warning the Pontiff has given often, such as in a message in July 2022 to SIGNIS, an international Catholic association for communication. Although he acknowledged “how digital media can bring us together” by “disseminating essential information” and “uniting whole families and ecclesial communities,” it must be used wisely. “Especially social media, has raised a number of serious ethical issues” and many “media sites have become places of toxicity, hate speech, and fake news.”
4Abstain from polarizations and divisions
It is easy to get caught in the debates and divisions that affect society daily. However Pope Francis calls Catholics to be “not either-or” but “both-and, combining differences.” In an interview with Jesuit media outlet America, published in November 2022 he clearly stated “polarization is not Catholic.”
“The Catholic unites the good and the not-so-good. There is only one people of God. When there is polarization, a divisive mentality arises, which privileges some and leaves others behind. The Catholic always harmonizes differences,” he explained.
5Abstain from being indifferent to others
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience,” the Pontiff said during his 2015 Lent message.
Caring for the forgotten, the marginalized, and those who suffer in society is a central pillar of Francis’ pontificate. He often condemns “throwaway culture” and calls for the dignity of every human being. “Lent is a favorable time for showing this concern for others by small yet concrete signs of our belonging to the one human family,” he said.
6Abstain from unnecessary noise
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of silence in a general audience on December 15, 2021, as he was doing a catechesis on St. Joseph. “With his silence, Joseph invites us to leave room for the Presence of the Word made flesh, for Jesus,” the Pontiff said, explaining how the Gospels do not contain a single word uttered by Mary’s husband.
The Head of the Catholic Church acknowledges that silence makes many people “afraid,” as it forces one to look within. However, he highlights that “to cultivate silence” is to “give the Spirit the opportunity to regenerate us, to console us, to correct us.”
In a recent speech on January 20, 2023, to diocesan liturgical leaders, Pope Francis also explained that silence during Mass is especially important. It “enables you to prepare for the mystery” of the Eucharist. And the Pope has a devotion to Our Lady of Silence.
7Abstain from narcissism, victimhood, and pessimism
In his Pentecost homily from 2020 Pope Francis identified “three main enemies” that prevent us from receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit filling our hearts: “narcissism, victimhood, and pessimism.”
“Narcissism makes us idolize ourselves, to be concerned only with what is good for us. […] Victims complain every day about their neighbor […] Thinking that no one understands us and experiences what we experience. […] The pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing, thinking: ‘What good is giving? That is useless,’” the Pope illustrated.
The antidote to these enemies is praying. Asking the “Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received,” the Pontiff said.