BY NATE LAUER
2/18/2015 8:02:00 AM
I hope this compilation of suggestions and encouragements proves of great value to you this coming Lent.
- Keep People Ashing, Errr….Asking Questions. Let your Ash Wednesday ashes stay on your forehead all day. These ashes come from last Palm Sunday’s blessed palms and remind us of our mortality, and the urgency of turning toward and embracing life in Christ. Use the questions or comments you get about that “smudge on your forehead” to evangelize those not in the know.
- “The Narrow Way”. That narrow way is the confessional door that stands open! Go To Confession! Only God can forgive sins. Ultimately, that is. But He gives His authority to forgive sins to the successive Popes, Bishops, and their collaborators, our priests. Don’t miss the great graces found just past the narrow confessional doorway.
- Go To Daily Mass One Day A Week. I mean on top of our Sunday Mass obligation. Actually besides Sundays, go to Daily Mass once during Lent. Soon you will find yourself drawn as to a magnet to the life giving graces of Jesus in the Eucharist and fall in love with the Mass more than ever before and will want to go to daily Mass often.
- Play Church Musical Chairs. We get stuck in our ways, even where Church pews are concerned. Love having that aisle seat? Instead of hesitating or grumbling this Lent, warmly welcome your neighbor that just genuflected and is waiting for you to make room. Seriously, prepare the way of the Lord by making way for your brother or sister in Christ. Bonus: change up where you typically sit at Mass.
- Stay In The Pew For An Extra Few. That is, don’t rush out right after the Recessional Song. Remember, Christ remains present in us body, blood, soul and divinity, and we are tabernacles of the living God in a most pronounced in the period following Holy Communion. Use this as a time to take 5-10 minutes to sit and talk quietly with our Lord enshrined within our very bodies.
- Ten Minutes. Speaking of spending time in prayer after Mass, If you want transformed, you need to be committed to spending quiet time with the Lord every day. There are a variety of ways to do this, but what is important is making yourself exclusively available to the Lord each day for at least 10 minutes. This is a habit not just for Lent, but one essential for growth in the spiritual life. People say they are too busy, but think of how much time you spend watching television, on social media, and on the phone. Make time, you will find it.
- Patience? I Got It In The Church Parking Lot. Kindly allow people to pull out of their parking spaces and onto the street, and warmly let fellow parishioners exiting the Church cross the Street. How much impact has the Mass had on us when immediately afterwards we cannot even show menial kindnesses to our fellow man?
- Turn Back. Jesus calls us to penance. His goal is turning our souls toward Him. Cold-hearted, mindlessly done exterior penances are not what He desires. Interior penance means turning our hearts back towards God, redirecting our whole lives, all that we do, all that we are, towards God, trusting in His mercy. Interior penance then leads us to desire to do authentic, fruitful outward penances.
- Desert, Not Desserts. Meditate on Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, throughout Lent. While Lent may have us moping around, longing for the desserts (or whatever it may be) we love that we give up, we must keep in mind that Lent is a time when the Church unites itself with and makes present Christ’s own 40 days in the desert wilderness. As regards human nature, in the Incarnation, Christ is like to us in all things but sin, and in the desert He endured Satan’s temptations, yet without falling into sin. He knows our human nature well. Trust Him to teach you and help you on the Lenten journey.
- Celebrate Sundays! There are 46 days in Lenten period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, and yet everyone talks about “these 40 days of Lent”. The Sundays of Lent don’t go into the count so 46-6= yep, 40! By the way, Lent actually ends when the Paschal Triduum commences on Holy Thursday. But in the count of 40 is included Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday until the evening Easter Vigil. And again, the Sundays of Lent do not go into that count. Why? Because Each Sunday is a “little Easter”, is a celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection until he comes again at the end of time. The marathon of Lent needs little breaks in order for us to rejuvenate, refresh, and renew ourselves. Perhaps you can embrace on Sundays what you gave up for Lent (if what you gave up was chocolate, soda pop, sugar etc.)
- Drink Some Lenten Beers. I am serious. Many monastic beers are seasonal, including ones specifically made for Advent and Lent (by the way we can thank monks through the centuries for much of the development of the fine beers and ales we know today). This is a great idea to make the Sundays of Lent more joyful than the other days of Lent.
- Unless You Become Like Little Children. ..Smile and Laugh, even if you don’t feel like it. The fact is, kids laugh and are more jovial than adults. They also tend to be fuller of trust. There is a connection there. The saints were decidedly not sad.
- Reflect On The Color Violet. Violet is the penitential color of Lent. Let it remind you through these weeks of Lent of Christ’s bruises during His sorrowful Passion, and of the purple robe the Roman soldiers placed on him as they mocked him. Remember Jesus is our true King, the king of Mercy who saves us from our sins.
- Don’t Say Yes To The Dress. Answer “No” To The Unnecessary Clothes. Love shopping? Find it hard in your favorite store clothing sections to say no to that pair of shoes or hoodie? Deny yourself these “just because” instant gratification moments. Mortifying ourselves when we really want something, but really don’t need that something, can be a surprisingly intense moment of taming our desires.
- Revolt Against The Machines. As far as possible, fast from Noise (music included) and Social Media one day a week during Lent. Yes, I know, we have to use our computers to an extent for work related uses. Use the extra time to rediscover what you used to do before social media took over the world and our lives. Immerse yourself in the quiet.
- Read The Dolorous Passion of the Christ. Written by Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, her visions, though not to be taken as equal to Gospel Truth, are a compelling, moving account of Christ’s last hours. Her work was largely used to fill in the detail’s in Mel Gibson’s monumental major motion picture, The Passion of The Christ.
- Do The Stations Of The Cross. It seems many Catholics have drifted away from what was once a staple practice of Lent. At least once during Lent, participate in your parishes Stations of the Cross, which is usually done weekly at many parishes. “The human heart is converted by looking upon Him whom our sins have pierced.” –Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 1432.
- The “Easter Sneak Preview”. What am I talking about you say?Mid-Lent Sunday, the Fourth Sunday in Lent marks our halfway point towards Easter. Traditionally it has been seen as a day when the first hints of Easter appear. Rose colored vestments are worn, telling us we have a “let up” from Lent for the day Flowers are even allowed on the altar, and many Catholic through the years have seen it as an excellent opportunity to enjoy foods and activities they gave up for Lent. Prior to Vatican Council II, it was officially known as “Laetare” Sunday referring to the beginning words of the Entrance Antiphon “Laetare Jerusalem”, “Rejoice Jerusalem”. On this day the Church says “rejoice’’! Lent is almost over.
- A Wee Suggestion. St Patrick’s Feast day falls within Lent. Learn more about the Apostle of Ireland, (The Confession of St. Patrick is a beautiful, accessible, easy way to do this). Make corned beef, have an Irish beer or two and let the spirituality of the Emerald Isle seep into your soul on his saint day, March 17th.
- Go To Joseph- Get to know St. Joseph! He is the second most powerful saint in Heaven, after the Blessed Virgin Mary! He is, after all, Patron of the Universal Church, the terror of demons, most chaste spouse of our Lady and the foster Father of the Son of God. Celebrate his feast day, a Solemnity, on March 19th, with holy reckless abandon! Solemnities are high holy days of the Church that trump Lenten days. That means that St. Joseph’s day is a day you can celebrate, and feast instead of fast.
- The Day The Music Died. Ok this is very similar to #15. Try driving to and from work one day a week without the radio on. See how your soul calms down and the Lord speaks to you at such times. You may find you enjoy the extra quiet time.
- Sunrise before Son Rise. How often do you watch the beauty of the morning and the evening sun coming and going? This time of a year is a surprisingly great time to do so. The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon meaning “Spring”, that is, “Lencten”, or literally, lengthen, as in the lengthening of the days. As we move towards spring, the sun is coming up earlier, and the sun setting later each day. Every day the increasing sunlight brings us closer to the glorious sunrise of Easter and the beauty of the earth’s awakening from Winter. Each day let that give you hope and joy. Watch the rising and setting sun whenever possible this Lent.
- Become An Apologist. No I don’t mean apologize for being Catholic.Apologetics is the science of explaining, justifying, and defending the Faith.Use Lent to tap into the great resources on and off the web that show the biblical and historical basis and reality of the Catholic Church as the Church Jesus intended. Suggestions: Scott Hahn, Matthew Kelly, Robert Barron and Father Michael Gaitley are all fabulous contemporary Catholic authors.
- “Lent” Me Your Ear. Put into practice, and be intentional about listening to others and what they are saying and not just anxiously wait until you can start talking. Let us decrease and Christ increase by loving neighbor in this way.
- Visit A Local Catholic Shrine or Cathedral Church. Enough said.
- Sign Up For An Hour Of Eucharistic Adoration On The First Friday In March. Many churches struggle to find adorers that will sign up for just one hour of adoration in one given month on First Fridays. Will you keep watch with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament, in the monstrance for just one hour? (Note: The next first Friday for many parishes is March 6th).
- Not So Fast. Consider fasting on another day besides the Church mandated days of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
- Starlight, Star Bright. Christ is the creator of the stars of night. When is the last time you sat under the starlight in your backyard (or somewhere nearby with dark skies-maybe a star party?) gazing at the Heavens. Until the modern age, man spent his evenings in candlelit, lamplit darkness with the splendor of the heavens above. Few astronomers are Atheists, by the way. The beauty of nature draws us to the beauty of God himself. An excellent Lenten exercise.
- Play Catechism Roulette. Buy a copy of The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Once a day, randomly flip open and read the first paragraph your eyes fall on. The Catechism is so richly written, you may find yourself referencing it and opening it more often.
- “One A Penny- Two A Penny, Hot Cross Buns”– Homework: Find a good recipe for and make Hot Cross Buns on Good Friday, a traditional baked good made through the centuries only this day of the year. This has become a family tradition for my family. My mom makes these aromatic buns and I have incorporated them into the food I eat as part of my Good Friday abstinence and fasting obligation.
- The Hour Of Mercy. Remember and pray on Christ’s sorrowful passion in some way each day at 3 p.m.
- Twice As Nice. My parish priest recently noted that a nun once remarked to him that it is not difficult to be nice to nice people. It seems it must be at least double as good to be kind to those who are difficult to nice to. Remember, seeing Christ in others means reaching out to them with the heart and loving gaze of Christ, whether they are pleasant or not. Who knows, your loving kindness may be what lifts them out of the fog, and pulls them closer to Christ. Besides, we are all at times not so nice to be around.
- B&B&B– Each day, make a point to read a passage of the Bible before breakfast and before bedtime. Suggestion: The Psalms and the Gospels
- Starve Your Sins. Obviously there are certain days when we are obliged to fast from food, and voluntary food fasting can work wonders in our spiritual life. Even so, we must keep in mind that we can also fast from our sins and weaknesses like gossip to name one example. While maybe we don’t intend on giving up chocolate for the rest of our lives, we should fast from our sins, like vanity, with the intention of breaking free of them not just during Lent, but for the rest of our lives.
- Do Some Almsgiving. A lot of us are familiar with “giving alms”, but do we do it? And what is it? Giving Alms is practice of giving material or financial aid to those in need, motivated by Christian Charity. Almsgiving, along with fasting and prayers are the three ways that Sacred Scripture, and the Early Church Fathers emphasize very strongly as ways that interior penance becomes visible in outward form. Lent is the season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to prepare for Easter.
- Can You Keep A Secret? In Almsgiving, Fasting, and Praying, we need to remind ourselves to not be like the hypocrites that Jesus warns of. We need to remember to do these things in secret, for as Jesus tells us, our loving Father who sees what we do secretly will repay us. Our penances are supposed to lead us toward humble, childlike trust in God our Father, not towards pride and praise from men. Truly, trust in God, not man.
- Visit A Cemetery. Don’t forget those who have passed on, visit a local cemetery, and the graves of those you might know there. Pray for the Holy Souls of the faithful departed who await entry into Heaven and that go through the purifications of Purgatory also remembering that we too are mortal and whilst these bodies return to dust, our spirits will be judged.
- Get Fired Up. Attend the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, which again is the high point of the liturgical year, the commemoration of our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection (including the Institution of the Eucharist, and Holy Orders on Holy Thursday). The Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night begins with the moving lighting of the Easter fire, and signals to us that our preparation for the Resurrection is indeed at a close.
- Let Go and Let God. Lent starts out swimmingly for many people and within a few days, monotony, dryness, and difficulty all set in. We must remember that conversion is first and foremost an initiative of God’s grace. Everything is grace, and we must humbly, trustingly, remain receptive to it with a willing and contrite heart. Remember, with God, nothing is impossible but everything is impossible without God and his grace! Don’t give up. You will fall and stumble on your Lenten journey, but Trust that God is transforming you, even when it doesn’t “feel” like it.
- “Pray, Hope And Don’t Worry.” Remember those words of Padre Pio’s, and no matter how good or bad of a Lent you think you are having, make them the anthem of your soul.
Have A Blessed Lent!
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