The majority of Catholics don’t exactly share my sentiments about Lent. We generally have childhood memories of cheese pizzas and mac & cheese on Friday nights (or, as with our house, orange roughey or tuna). We remember somber days, going to Stations of the Cross, venerating the Cross and extra long Palm Sunday Masses.
My most vivid Lent memory from childhood was the hardcore parental move of NO TV for all 6 weeks of Lent. Yup, all of it, including Sundays. I don’t know how my parents didn’t go nuts with us 5 kids and all our “boredom.”
These memories and many more of this most sacred time of the Catholic year have all compiled to help me to love Lent as an adult. I realize that it’s the culmination of everything that we believe as Christians. It’s the purpose of our faith and the reason we have hope – because Christ loved us to the point of death and that that death wasn’t the end of the story.
How can we even begin to say “thank you” for the incredible gift of salvation?
By making a gift of ourselves to the Lord throughout Lent. By preparing our hearts and minds to fully experience the Passion, Death, and Resurrection and rejoicing with the greatest joy on Easter. Now is a great time to begin thinking about what we can do to make this Lent meaningful to our spiritual lives. Here’s a few general ideas of things you might consider doing to make the most of Lent this year…
(1) Give something up.
This is what most Catholics think Lent is all about – giving something up. And, that’s all well and good as long as what we are giving up is actually something we would miss. I once had a wise professor, Dr. Regis Martin, who said, “My father used to give up watermelons every year for Lent. He hated the damn things.”
What’s the point of giving up something that you won’t really miss anyways? That is no sacrifice. You must really face the thing that you struggle to say “no” to. It could be TV, Facebook, cokes (that’s me!), beer, meat, shopping, texting, etc. Whatever is our big vice, we should consider offering it up this Lent.
(2) Commit to prayer.
Hopefully, prayer is something that you do everyday anyways. But, in order to deepen prayer, we have to push ourselves into a new and different practice of prayer. Perhaps it’s doing the St. Louis de Montfort Consecration to Mary. Maybe it’s praying a daily rosary. Or, trying to get to daily Mass or at least Mass some other day in the week besides Sunday. What about going to the Stations of the Cross every week? Try to think of actions that can make your prayer life new, different, and maybe even a little challenging.
(3) Do some spiritual reading everyday.
Instead of reading a novel or blogs or magazines, why not substitute these with something that would help you focus on your spiritual well-being? Or, even better, focus on Lent? Here’s a few suggestions:
*Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings (Henri J. Nouwen)
*Characters of the Passion (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen)
*The Lamb’s Supper (Scott Hahn)
*Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Pope Benedict XVI)
(4) Work on changing habits.
What better way to show our love for the Lord than by dying to self a little bit and trying to break the habits that we are very comfortable with? This might be the most difficult sacrifice for most of us because we often don’t even notice our bad habits. Things like speeding, being negative, talking too much, spending money needlessly, overeating, complaining, being lazy. Can we rid ourselves of some of the most selfish actions we do without thinking about them?
Though these are mostly things we should be trying to do all the time in our lives, sometimes we need a “reason” to do them. And, what better reason to get ourselves in gear, recommit to being the best versions of ourselves, and focus on our God than Lent?
So, one week and counting until Ash Wednesday. What’s it gonna be?