In the first of three articles on the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we learn from St. Patrick how to make Lent a special season of prayer.
In the weeks leading up to Lent, I am reminded to tell the young people in my class about Lent. I have to tell them when Ash Wednesday services at my parish are. I am required to inform them of the Lenten regulations. I need to teach them of the importance of the three practices of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
As I think about how I’m going to teach prayer, fasting, and almsgiving this year, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach: I will share examples of three saints whose feast days fall during Lent this year. I hope that the examples of these saints will inspire young people to “to return to God ‘with all their hearts’ (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord.” (Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2017)
I’ll begin with St. Patrick (A.D. 389–461), whose feast day falls on March 17.
While most of the young people will recognize the name of St. Patrick, few will know the details of his life. I will begin by telling his story, highlighting that he learned how to depend on God during his time in captivity. His total trust and dependence in God gave him the strength to spread the good news of Jesus Christ throughout Ireland.
I will then hand out copies of the prayer known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
To help them take this prayer to heart, I will tell the young people that they can pray the words, “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,” every time they do one of the following:
- do a kind deed for someone.
- become the recipient of a kind deed.
- take a moment to rest.
- think of someone they love.
- think of someone they dislike.
- hear someone compliment another.
- see someone in need of help.
This practice will remind the young people to see Christ in the people they encounter, which will help them grow in friendship with the Lord.
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal for all of us. I hope that by taking St. Patrick’s Breastplate to heart, young people will draw closer to God and one another.
Image by Andreas F. Borchert [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons (background green added).
Learn about Bob Burnham’s book Little Lessons from the Saints: 52 Simple and Surprising Ways to See the Saint in You.