The liturgical season of Lent helps us prepare for the great feast of Easter, and for the forty days of Lent (where Sundays are excluded in the counting of the days), we commit ourselves in a special way to prayer, almsgiving, denial of self and ego, and acts of penance. It is, essentially, an act of prayer extended for forty consecutive days that takes us on a spiritual journey that, hopefully, will bring us closer to God. The number ‘forty’ is mentioned well over a hundred times in the Bible as it held special spiritual relevance in both the Old and the New Testaments with regard to periods of preparation, testing or probation. Think of the forty days and nights Moses spent on Mount Sinai before God gave him the Ten Commandments and, in the New Testament, the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before He began His public ministry.

Aside from the fast and abstinence days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, anything we give up or taken on to do during Lent may be considered self-disciplinary in nature and are often more effective if we see them through every day of Lent, including Sundays and the Irish ‘free pass’ of St Patrick’s Day! Our sacrifices for Lent are not Church or law-governed, but a matter of individual conscience.

As part of its apostolate, the Pioneer Association has a Short-Term Pledge section for adults over the age of eighteen years. This enables a person who does not wish to make a life commitment to total abstinence to take a pledge for a limited period of time. Many people who have problems with alcohol over-consumption have used this pledge to help them, while others want to do something uplifting or challenging for themselves or for others for a particular season of the year, i.e., for Lent, for the month of the Holy Souls in November or for Advent, in preparation for Christmas. Many of these ‘Short-Term Pledgers’ have gone on to become longer-term and frequent members. Many have used it to buttress their resolution to stay ‘dry’ for a particular month for their own personal reasons.

If you feel that you can and would like to take the pledge for the six weeks of Lent, please go online at www.pioneerassociation.ie and follow the links to join. A small fee applies if you wish to have the Pioneer emblem and the registration card.