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 | By Deacon Dan Lupo | Columnist

May we pursue God’s grace in our Lenten sacrifices

When asked to offer a reflection on perseverance in Lent for this month’s Spirit, I froze. Me? Reflect on perseverance?

- I get exhausted on the first day of a novena …

- Buzzards circle above me as I pray the first decade of a rosary …

- I swoon from lack of oxygen mid-way through the Creed …

Reflect on perseverance? Nuclear fission might be an easier topic, I thought.

Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of the sage advice I received during reconciliation one Lent – one difficult Lent, when relentless sin had earned me five trips to the confessional in six weeks; when easily forgotten and quickly abandoned efforts at extra prayer left me ashamed; when erratic and non-sacrificial almsgiving filled me with regret; and fasting – well, somehow, I had gained five pounds by Holy Week!

Remorseful, dejected and humbled, I asked for forgiveness for having failed so miserably. The priest gave a chuckle and said, maybe I was having – not an awful Lent – but a wonderful one.

Father explained that my Lent had merely emphasized my limited ability to endure, persist and (drum roll) persevere. Human frailty, indeed: on my own, I was woefully lacking. But – and he spoke slowly for effect – with God, all things are possible.

How often, he inquired, had I asked God for help with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that Lent? How often did I seek – and trust – his grace, instead of my own willpower, to wrangle the three Lenten practices? This extends to all endeavors in our lives … how often do we invite the Holy Spirit to help guide us and empower us in all our daily efforts?

The priest suggested that I let my Lenten “failures” remind me that I need a savior – the Son of God whose death removes the debt of all sin; whose resurrection overcomes all death by opening heaven’s gates; whose ascension allows his Spirit to guide, enlighten and empower our pilgrimage through this life into the next.

We cannot obtain any of this on our own, the priest continued, and certainly not by meriting a perfect score (or even a passing one) on the three Lenten observances.

To be sure, we should not give up on or give in to our frail efforts to maintain our Lenten practices, but instead of “trying harder” we can ask (through prayer) to receive God’s grace to strengthen our resolve; and draw closer to him (in giving alms to the needy); and give up (fast from) the habits and behaviors that undermine our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.

May we all learn what that "awful" Lent taught me: wherever we are in our Lenten journey, however well we’ve maintained our Lenten practices, let’s ask our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to help us persevere in our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Let us begin again our pursuit of those observances, but draw from his limitless grace in our efforts. Let us strive to do these – and all things – through him, with him, and in him, so that our Lent – and our lives – might bear fruit according to God’s will. Amen!

Deacon Dan Lupo serves at St. Thomas More Parish in Austin. He is a diocesan spiritual director, a healing prayer minister and a retreat leader. Contact him at