08 February 2016

Lent 2016 (and many ideas!)

With Ash Wednesday on one of the earliest possible days this year, Lent is going to be upon us in a quick second. I always think it sounds strange (but I have heard others echo the sentiment as well) that Lent is one of my favorite times of the liturgical year. It is an opportunity to simplify our lives and redirect our hearts to God in preparation for the celebration of Easter. Hopefully, we've had the time to think about what we're doing for Lent. Here are my plans as well as some ideas for you.

My plans are as follows:

  • SPIRITUAL READING: Read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis. I have read snippets in the past and every time I would think to myself, "This is so great. Why do I not read this more often?" I'd like to complete it in the forty days of Lent by reading a few chapters each day. I also intend to read the daily scripture readings.
  • PRAYER: Pray Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer). I used to do this consistently, but have fallen away from the practice. I love the Liturgy of Hours because it helps me to organize the day and will more easily help me to carve out times in the day to devote to my spiritual needs.
  • GIVE UP: As of late (i.e. the last several months), I have been a little too enthralled with the internet (i.e. spending several hours with it?!). I will be using my phone only for email and correspondence (and any Catholic apps) and my computer only for blogging and Catholic-oriented research. No more games, silly article reading, bored social media scrolling, or Netflix binges (I'll make exceptions for Netflix "dates" with the husband, since that is one thing we like to do together, but even then, I want to limit those as well). I also remember reading about St. Therese sitting very straight and not resting on the pew during Mass, for example, as a small penance (we're talking, "I'm just going to do some penance in ordinary life," not "This is my complete Lenten penance") and want to take that on as well.

There are so many things you can do for Lent. Do make sure, however, to keep in mind the following guidelines of the Church:

  1. One should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The "rules" allow one meal and snacks which, when combined, do not equal the size of the meal. This way of fasting may seem like a normal day for some people, so I would encourage you to completely fast from all food on these days if you can. The ill, pregnant and nursing are exempt.
  2. One should abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent as well as Ash Wednesday. Fish is permitted on these days. In the olden days, Catholics abstained from all animal products, including butter, eggs and milk. This is why eggs feature greatly in Easter traditions (hidden eggs, chocolate eggs) and Fat Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday has been celebrated as Pancake Tuesday to use up these ingredients.
  3. One might think of Lent as a time to give up something that isn't very good for them (excessive chocolate/internet use), but you can also give up something you enjoy (drinking coffee/reading fiction). Catholics are also urged to take on spiritual practices, like prayer (Rosary), devotional reading (literally thousands of options), and almsgiving (give more at Mass).
  4. Remember that Sundays are not in the 40 days of Lent, because on Sunday we remember the Resurrection, not the suffering of Christ to which we are aligning ourselves. Take these days to go to Mass, relax with your family, and enjoy a little of whatever you have been giving up.

Lent can be a good time to root out sin in your life. Addiction, gluttony, laziness, anger... They all can inhibit our spiritual lives. If your vice is pride, service, self-denial and thankfulness are good things to take on. Maybe you just want some more holy practices. Or you need to learn to accept suffering, which will all the more help you endure suffering later on. Lent is beautiful in its versatility. Here are some ideas for you:

  • skip the snooze button and get. on. up.
  • start your day with prayer instead of caffeine
  • cut out all sugar (you can do it!)
  • take only cold showers
  • do your least favorite chore without hesitation or complaint
  • simplify your diet: beans, rice, veg. no indulgences (boxed cereals, candy, seasoning)
  • forego entertainment/going out and give that money to the Church or an organization
  • decrease meat consumption to two/three days per week. you may do the same as above with saved money.
  • pray the Rosary
  • cut back on negativity and envy by giving compliments
  • learn to be thankful by thanking God for three new things a day
  • only eat meals you have prepared instead of fast food
  • increase daily Mass attendance
  • treat Lent as a semester to dig into a Church topic you are confused about
  • pray on your way to work/school instead of listening to music or making a phone call
  • listen to only sacred music
  • do chores you know your family member dislikes
  • turn off the television. for forty days.
  • do not choose your favorite flavor/first choice entree
  • if you are married, abstain from sex (I've heard of people taking on this idea. Some might say that would shirk marital duties, but hey, if it's become something that you've let sin get in the way of, it might be good to be a little more chaste.)
  • fast until you receive the Eucharist at daily Mass
  • do the Stations of the Cross on Fridays
  • make cuts to your social calendar and spend that time with God
  • dress slightly too warm or slightly too cold for the weather
  • avoid saying, "I" in conversations. focus on someone besides yourself
  • pray the OF, HM, GB very slowly, meditating on each word or short phrase
  • journal about the reading/prayer/spiritual time you've had each day
  • limit/eliminate recreational computer usage
  • when you worry, redirect your mind to prayer or real, helpful action
  • stop weighing yourself/counting calories (if this is a problem area for you)
  • de-clutter your home and donate the items
  • hold your tongue when it comes to sarcasm and criticism
  • use your phone for calls, texts and emails. no other apps!
  • be present in the moment. give someone your full attention. practice patience.
  • create a simple wardrobe for Lent. learn to be grateful for what you have and not care excessively about appearance
  • practice corporal works of mercy (feed, clothe, visit the hungry, homeless, sick)
  • give up cosmetic luxuries (makeup, perfume, heat hair styling, nail polish)
  • who irritates you? find ways to serve them. talk, listen, give.
  • go to Adoration
  • go to Confession to prepare yourself to receive the Eucharist at Easter, accomplishing two precepts of the Church
  • get involved at your parish with opportunities to serve the community
  • pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • read Scripture or daily readings (blessed is she is good). you could finish the Gospels!
  • pray for priests
  • pray for the persecuted
  • pray for the holy souls in Purgatory
  • pray for conversions
  • pray for women considering and who have had an abortion
  • pray for the Pope
  • pray for Papa Benny
  • pray for your family

Choose one of these or choose a few of these. Whatever you decide, spend time with God first and try to discern what He is calling you to. Do not try to push yourself with too many tasks: it is better to do a penance well than to do many poorly. A great tip I heard if you are struggling to figure out what to do is ask those you live with (family/friend/roommate) what you could work on. They can see your habits.

Still looking for more resources?

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