Photo by Elizabeth Wagner
Wednesday, Feb. 17, was the first day of this year’s Lenten season. In his 2021 Lenten message, Pope Francis conveyed the importance of asceticism, saying, “Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus, enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.”
At Franciscan University of Steubenville, the university is supporting students during the Lenten season with a program called Franciscan 40.
Senior Claudio Ferrari provided insight on the project.
“It is a lessoned program that focuses on prayer, fasting and almsgiving,” Ferrari said. “Its focus is primarily to encourage the student body to grow in the Lenten journey and to grow in their relationship with the Lord. The cool thing about it is that anybody can do it.”
Ferrari said that the idea for Franciscan 40 came from Exodus 90, a nationwide Lenten program for men that consists of daily prayer and acts of asceticism.
“We found that students were doing Exodus 90 but found that the commitments were overbearing for students and so Franciscan 40 aims to be a Lenten program that’s tailored to the Franciscan body,” Ferrari said.
“We noticed that students desired to grow during the Lenten season and we wanted to provide a way that students could find something unique to the Franciscan community. The friars, along with myself and student government, have tried to put something together that will both challenge and encourage students to grow in their spiritual life this Lent, and we pray that students recognize and see this.”
Franciscan 40 begins with an online sign up that commits students to the Lenten program and gives them information on the required practices. So far, over 1,000 students have signed up.
Within the program commitments there are some “required commitments and then there are some optionals that are recommended,” said Ferrari. The required commitments are student friendly, such as the “personal prayer every day” and “no sweets.”
On the website there are other optional choices such as the heroic minute, which Ferrari explained: “your first minute of the day is when your alarm goes off and you offer your day up to the Lord the first minute.”
Students are highly encouraged to find an accountability partner, since there will not be an accountability system in place.
Other mandatory commitments include a daily morning offering and nightly examen, fasting every Friday and a weekly act of service. Other optional commitments include abstaining from alcohol, taking cold showers, a 33-day consecration to St. Joseph and a monetary donation to a parish or Catholic organization.
The program is designed specifically for the Franciscan community. “Ultimately, it’s made for Franciscan family: the staff and friars are doing it. Online students, on campus, graduate students, professors are all welcomed,” said Ferrari.
“Honestly, our goal is that students enter into a consistent rhythmic relationship with the Lord. The whole purpose behind it is that it is to encourage student body in FUS family to grow in their relationship with the Lord. Us as a student body can grow in our spiritual life.”
There is no limit to the number of people that can sign up and sign-ups continue throughout the Lenten season. If interested in learning more, the webpage is https://www.franciscan40.com.