Pillars of Lent: Prayer
San Francisco de Asís parishioners gathered in Flagstaff March 9 for the first day of a two-day Lenten mission, eager to grow in prayer during Lent.
Parishioners anxiously waited for Fr. Declan Gibson, a Missionary of the Most Holy Eucharist, to expose Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Gibson traveled from Ireland to deliver this message: that Catholics are losing their faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. A recent poll showed that one third of Catholics believe in the True Presence.
“We can’t change what is true, that Jesus is here: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist,” Fr. Gibson said. “We are in the presence of the Lord; is there anywhere that we would rather be?”
The night concluded with Fr. Gibson processing with the Blessed Sacrament through the church, leaving parishioners to ponder how they can move forward with a greater appreciation of the True Presence of the Eucharist.
Adoration is just one type of prayer that Catholics try to embrace more fully during Lent — and ideally extending beyond the season.
Angela Vargas, chief operations manager at Holy Trinity Newman Center at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, is helping other women to encounter the Lord in prayerful reflection through Mary’s Way of the Cross.
Vargas first experienced Mary’s Way of the Cross 25 years ago and found the experience so powerful and personal that last Lent, she began hosting it for her Bible study and other women. As Vargas described it, Mary’s Way of the Cross is being on the road to Calvary with Mary and watching her suffer with her Son.
Seventy-five women attended Mary’s Way of the Cross the first week of Lent, many in tears because of the powerful experience. Vargas has encountered many suffering NAU students while working at the Newman Center. She hopes to continue to call upon Mary to intercede as she loves the many students she encounters and to be a motherly figure for them.
“[Mary’s Way of the Cross] helps to bring out our feminine genius. It reminds us of the beautiful role that our Lord has given us to help with the sufferings of others and to be there as loving matriarchal figures,” Vargas said.
MaryClare Lally, an academic advisor at NAU, has entered into Lent the last two years by praying outside of Planned Parenthood in Flagstaff. She has participated in the last three 40 Days for Life campaigns and has been offering up two hours of her Sundays this Lent by praying for the unborn.
Praying on the corner of a busy road in Flagstaff while holding a sign that reads “Take my hand, not my life” is scary and intimidating, but Lally says that it has become second nature to her. She has learned to pray for the people who react negatively.
“It’s a sacrifice for me to stand in the cold, to offer up a couple hours of my time and to put myself in a situation that might be uncomfortable,” Lally said. “It’s allowed me to unite my suffering with Christ’s, and it’s helping me to grow in holiness during the Lenten season.”
TJ Engelkamp, a first-year FOCUS missionary at NAU, teaches students to incorporate daily prayer into their lives, especially during the season of Lent. Instead of doing one holy hour a week, Engelkamp encourages others to spread out that time and start with 10 minutes of prayer a day, in order to foster a relationship with Christ.
“Lent is preparation for Easter. It’s looking forward to the resurrection and being able to deny ourselves and being able to appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross,” Engelkamp said. “In order to do that, we need to be steeped in prayer and Scripture.”
To be steeped in Scripture, Engelkamp suggests using the WRAP method of prayer found in Karen L. Dwyer’s book “Wrap Yourself in Scripture” which teaches that individuals sit with a Scripture passage and proceed to “Write, Reflect, Apply and Pray.” Engelkamp says that prayer is simply talking to God and it’s something that won’t happen unless we make time for it.
“My favorite passage in the Bible is the agony in the garden. In a moment of weakness — and in a moment of terror — Jesus reaches out to His Father,” Engelkamp said. “Everyone goes through suffering and you have a choice whether you’re going to rely on God or rely on your own strength.”