At the Catholic Benedictine monastery where my wife and I are oblates, each year we are asked to write the additional items of service (bona opera = good works) we intend to perform during Lent. These additional acts are in our:
We e-mail these to the monastery’s Director of Oblates for approval — I e-mailed mine today.
These Lenten practices are offerings to God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something “above the measure required of us so that with the joy of spiritual desire we may look forward to holy Easter.”
In addition to the Lenten acts of service, the Rule of St. Benedict also directs that a book should be read during Lent. A common practice on monastic/oblate forums and message boards is for the members to write about the book they each have selected to be read during Lent. Frequently, these are books about spiritual matters.
I have not decided on a book to read during Lent, but I think I should pick one I already have, but have not yet read. I have too many of those!
The picture is by Schoschie
Here are sections from the Rule of St. Benedict about additional reading and additional service during Lent:
Additional Reading from Chapter 48:
“On the days of Lent, from morning until the end of the third hour let them apply themselves to their reading, and from then until the end of the tenth hour let them do the work assigned them. And in these days of Lent they shall each receive a book from the library, which they shall read straight through from the beginning. These books are to be given out at the beginning of Lent.”
Additional Service from Chapter 49:
“Although the life of a monk ought to have about it at all times the character of a Lenten observance, yet since few have the virtue for that, we therefore urge that during the actual days of Lent the brethren keep their lives most pure and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the negligences of other times. And this will be worthily done if we restrain ourselves from all vices and give ourselves up to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and to abstinence.
“During these days, therefore, let us increase somewhat the usual burden of our service, as by private prayers and by abstinence in food and drink. Thus everyone of his own will may offer God "with joy of the Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 1:6) something above the measure required of him. From his body, that is he may withhold some food, drink, sleep, talking and jesting; and with the joy of spiritual desire he may look forward to holy Easter.
“Let each one, however, suggest to his Abbot what it is that he wants to offer, and let it be done with his blessing and approval. For anything done without the permission of the spiritual father will be imputed to presumption and vainglory and will merit no reward. Therefore let everything be done with the Abbot's approval.”