Three Pillars and 40 Days

"Three pillars and 40 days" by Jay Cuasay (

Copyright 2018 Jay Cuasay. All rights reserved.

There are so many different ways to prepare for Lent. Over the last decade or so, my Lenten practices have turned more toward theological reflection: a time for self-examination using the the “see, judge, act” model and the three pillars of Lent. I realize that Lenten practices today are nothing compared to my childhood memories of daily Mass at a time when we already ate fish every Wednesday and Friday of the year. Today, with all the exceptions for the young, the aged, and those with dietary issues, the restrictions for Lent are rather minimal. We only fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

See our abundance as others’ needs

One year, former pastor Fr. C. Donald Howard, S.A. (of blessed memory) gave a homily where he noted how prevalent water bottles were. People were bringing them to church. They were often handed out at conventions or at meetings. Everyone seemed very hydration-conscious. Yet nobody drank water from a fountain, straight from the tap, or out of a garden hose anymore. He wryly suggested that perhaps we might simply give up bottled water for Lent and thereby experience life in better solidarity with migrant peoples and others who live without an abundance of clean, running water.

Judge self & others

Another year I gave up eating out for dinner in favor of spending that time more intentionally gathering for a family meal. Again, this pointed out how easy and opulent my suburban life was in the ethnic culinary offerings that surrounded me. The pleasures of eating out made me overlook the work of human hands, and the entertaining din of the crowd masked ties of cultural and personal sharing. Being more thankful for a home-cooked meal made our family appreciate the hospitality of others who often work hard at minimum wages to offer us their food.

This year, Lent is upon us again. I am struck by the recent death of Fr. Howard, who died suddenly mid-January. In his residence, he left behind a collection of crosses that he had amassed over his lifetime. His family generously offered them up to the church staff and close friends to take. So this Lent, I carry a cross from him. I also inherited his thurible that now hangs in my family prayer room at home.

"Three pillars and 40 days" by Jay Cuasay (

Copyright 2018 Jay Cuasay. All rights reserved.

Act as someone who has died to sin so as to live in freedom

It is really something to continue my ministry in the church that Fr. Howard built. I remember so well celebrating funerals with him. He was the only one who really knew how to use incense. It is also really something to have shared stories and meals with him, both Eucharistic and social. And I rejoice that my prayer life is aided by the sacramentals that are now with me and my family.

These Lenten days that open up into the Great 50 Days of Easter were the best of times for us to have had together. We saw so many enter the church at Easter. First Communions followed not long after in May, and Adult Confirmations at Pentecost. It was a joy to journey through each season. I expect this Lent to be just as faith-forming.

Reflection Prayer

Your earthly belongings are like the bindings folded in His tomb.
Left behind like “pajamas of death”
No one more surprised than You at Resurrection.

Copyright 2018 Jay Cuasay


About Author

Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. He currently ministers to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish. He can be reached at

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