By Deacon Lucio Caruso
For many of us, our lives are so hurried that we seldom stop and take a breath! I believe our church wisely gives us this season of Lent to do just that; to stop and take a spiritual breath, so to speak.
We all know the basic science of breathing. One must inhale and one must exhale. If we just inhale, we would most likely faint and pass out. If we just exhale, the result would be the same. We need to do both in order to live and function. And we seldom take the time to think about it, unless something serious were to take place. Most always, it is a natural and involuntary process.
The disciplines and practices of Lent are all about inhaling and exhaling, or what we at my parish of St. Ignatius Martyr this Lent are calling inreach and outreach. And we need both in order to be spiritually alive.
The inhaling or inreach are the efforts of prayer and fasting by which we more intentionally find some quiet and space to enter that inner room of our hearts and be present to our God. Fasting from time spent online or on our mobile phones, as Pope Francis himself has challenged us to do can help us to make some time to stop and breathe in the presence of God.
The exhaling or outreach is what we have traditionally named alms-giving, the actions of serving others through the sharing of our time, gifts, and resources. At St. Ignatius, we are encouraging support for the Little Sisters of the Poor who visited us on the first weekend of Lent. We are also inviting more of our parishioners into outreach as volunteers in our Helping Hands Food Pantry, Family ESL program, and in the very soon to start Head Start program.
But we don’t do this inreach and outreach breathing by our own effort and will power. We draw upon another breath, the Holy Spirit who breathes with us. In fact, the very word Spirit in both Hebrew and Greek translates as breath.
So let us this Lent with the Spirit of God that dwells within us, stop and take a so needed spiritual breath. And who knows, we might find ourselves eventually doing this almost involuntarily, like our natural rhythms of breathing.
Deacon Lucio Caruso serves as the deacon for St. Ignatius Martyr Church.