Saints can greatly help igniting our Lenten journey towards the fulfillment of our truly authentic life vocation: holiness. Thus, saints can be for us a great aid towards existential goal: our sanctification.
First, Lent teaches us enduring everything to achieve intimacy with God. St Catherine of Siena says: Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring. Second, Lent reminds us that the cross is our golden ladder to the Heavenly Jerusalem. St Rose of Lima teaches us: Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may go to heaven. Third, Lent helps us focus on the powerhouse of our sanctification: Jesus Crucified. St Charles Borromeo encourages us: Behold, Jesus Christ crucified, who is the only foundation of our hope; He is our mediator and advocate; the victim and sacrifice for our sins. He is goodness and patience itself; His mercy is moved by the tears of sinners, and he never refuses pardon and grace to those who ask it with a truly contrite and humbled heart.
Fourth, Lent makes our aware that our existence makes sense when it is rooted in Christ. St Clare of Assisi harps on this point when she says: If you suffer with Him, you will reign with Him. If you cry with Him, you will have joy with Him. If you die with Him on the Cross of tribulation, you will possess the eternal dwelling place in the splendor of the saints. And your name, written in the Book of Life, will be glorious among men. Fifth, Lent is the right milieu for prayer. St. Josemaría Escrivá says: You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun. Sixth, Lent teaches us to struggle against our egocentrism to open ourselves to the grace of sanctification. St Pio of Pietrelcina rightly points out to us: The life of a Christian is nothing but a perpetual struggle against self; there is no flowering of the soul to the beauty of its perfection except at the price of pain.
Seventh, Lent is the loving invitation of Jesus to quench his thirst in those who suffer. St Teresa of Calcutta states: As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you. Eighth, Lent is a privileged time for purification. St Augustine of Hippo explains: Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself. Ninth, Lent is a time of prayer and sacrifice. St Therese of Lisieux offers us the following vision: My whole strength lies in prayer and sacrifice; these are my invincible arms; they can move hearts far better than words.
Tenth, and finally, Lent is time for prayer, penance and charity. In his 2004 Lenten Message Pope St John Paul II asserts: Let us set out with trust on our Lenten journey, sustained by fervent prayer, penance and concern for those in need. In particular, may this Lent be a time of ever greater concern for the needs of children, in our own families and in society as a whole: for they are the future of humanity.
Thank you Lord Jesus that your igniting our Lenten journey with the great contribution of the saints. Amen.
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap