Lent is one of the liturgical seasons observed by Christians, especially in the Catholic Church. It is the forty days period of preparation before the celebration of Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday, (i.e., when ashes are smeared on the forehead to remind believers that they are dust and onto dust, s/he shall return) and ends on Maundy Thursday in Holy Week.
The season does not occur while one is on vacation, at leisure, or simply free. It is a season observed while going about one’s everyday work of teaching, caring for the sick, ensuring security, and enforcing law and order, among others. The action code for the season is prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, there are further spiritual exercises in that a believer is required to participate (i.e., Stations of the Cross, and Sacrament of Reconciliation).
Since work requires some kind of energy and a lot of time and dedication, many people wonder about the possibility of observing the action codes of the season. Sometimes most people feel that they are exempted because the work they do, does not permit them to observe the season. The purpose of this essay is to share a personal opinion on how one can blend Lent with work while maintaining energy and being dedicated. This is my little contribution to help believers in the cooperate world who want to participate in this year’s season of Lent actively. The opinion is underpinned by my personal experience some years ago in the Minor Seminary.
I remember some years ago in the Minor Seminary, work was meant to be a form of prayer as we often quoted from the Benedictine rule “Laborare est orare” which means “to work is to pray”. This became my consolation to the practice of work as prayer. There was always a delight amidst work as anytime I worked, I had something about Christ to meditate on. For example, meditating on the Christ crucified.
It lessened the burden of my work because I felt I was doing it with the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as Simon of Cyrene helped him to carry his cross, he was readily close to me as I worked. My Spiritual Director during one of our usual one on one encounters asked me about moments I pray, I mentioned work. I did not separate work from prayer, but my work was prayer itself. This did not only help me accomplish my duties but gave me some kind of fulfillment.
In the season of Lent, we make sacrifices in order to test our self-discipline and our daily work is not immune to this as a form of prayer. We cannot be so much engaged neglecting the spiritual exercises, thus, to fast, give alms, pray, and reflect; a time to be quiet and thoughtful before Easter. The work we do can offer us the opportunity by which the codes of the season can be observed without neglecting our responsibilities and even more productive and fulfilled.
Since we are required to fast if the work requires much of strength you can choose to abstain from something in particular – like a food item or luxuries like chocolate, cakes, or caffeine, or a particular habit like drinking or smoking. In today’s technological age, you may choose to give up social media or even use your phone. This suffices for fasting.
Almsgiving has always meant an act associated with charity and sharing. At the workplace, we can be charitable to people by choosing the right words for them as we speak and speaking well of one another. Do not tell lies, insults, and gossip. Also, we can share by helping others complete their tasks; become the Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus to carry his cross, not Peter who denied Jesus. This calls for teamwork and not an unnecessary argument.
As we work, we may not get the time to pray as required of us. However, we can still pray and reflect, ensuring silence by avoiding lengthy conversations. Also, our attitudes towards work (i.e., punctuality, honesty, hard work, integrity, and among others) at this moment can equally suffice for prayer because to work is to pray – Laborare est orare. This will enable us to have enough time to reflect on the child born in the manger, found in the temple, betrayed, condemned to death, crucified, died, and resurrected (Jesus).
Work has a lot of benefits and burdens and pains as well. Hence, Ray Kroc asserts that Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get. However, if the work we do is done in the Lord keeping Christ in focus, it is painless, burden-less and there is fulfillment because you have the Lord journeying with you. This is why in this season of lent I advocate that the cooperate world see their work as Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to participate fully in the season.