Posted by: liturgicalyear | March 27, 2010

Wishing you could re-start Lent?

As Holy Week approaches, and Lent comes to a climax, it’s tempting to revisit lost opportunities in how you honored this Lenten season — in your own life and with your family. We start out fired up and focused at the beginning of Lent, and often we relent (as in to slacken or become less intense) in our Lenten practice as the season progresses. That provides fodder for regret, which may make us want to rewind Lent – hit the magic re-Lent button. That restart button does exist. Here are some tips to help you hold onto Lent’s core all through the year.

Like the Pharisees of old, it’s easy to focus on the details of how to practice our faith during Lent; and it’s easy to lose focus on the principles that guide those practices. How often have you said this Lenten season:

  • I wish I’d gotten to more daily Masses this week.
  • I wish I’d had more time to spend at Adoration.
  • I wish I’d gone on a Lenten retreat.
  • I wish I’d gone to more Stations of the Cross opportunities.
  • I wish I’d done weekly Confession during Lent.
  • I wish I’d followed through with my desire to ______ this Lent.

If you get bogged down in the details, you amass regrets. This adds extra opportunities as you hit the Confessional this Holy Week, but be careful not to lose sight of the big picture among the details in Lent.

The central tenant of Lent is Sacrifice

What we remind ourselves throughout Lent is Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, and his sufferings. We make humble attempts to join ourselves to His sacrifice through acts of self-denial, charitable efforts, and penance during Lent. But, as Holy Week approaches, we often notice our failures most of all. Humility is our close companion, and that is good. But take a minute to revisit what you’ve learned about sacrifice this Lent, and how you can refresh this commitment throughout the year.

Notice the small sacrifices you make daily, and show gratitude amidst sacrifice. Cleaning your home may not seem like a sacrifice, because it must be done, but your offering to your family is sacrificial. Now don’t start listing your sacrifices to counter your regrets. Instead, notice how you’ve grown in your ability to sacrifice without grumbling, without even noticing. That blessed forgetfulness enables us to never grow weary in well-doing. As we develop habits of sacrifice, we stop noticing and counting. What a blessed forgetfulness!

Tips for carrying over the spirit of sacrifice throughout the year:

  • Notice acts of sacrifice you make unthinkingly, and thank God for your growth in holiness. Eg. You throw in a load of laundry so your son has his basketball uniform ready for the game tonight. Notice how you’ve grown in your habits, to do for others without counting the cost to you. Thank God for your growth.
  • Transform grumblings into thank-offerings, when you find yourself resenting a sacrifice you’re doing for another. Eg. You pick up your husband’s dirty socks yet again. But, instead of grumbling (outwardly or inwardly), thank God for the opportunity that you can do this small thing to help him and your family; ask for Grace to see you through your reluctance to make a conscious and willing sacrifice.
  • Offer up your sufferings for others’ needs. This takes focused practice, so you shift your focus away from the specific burden you’re carrying and make an offering for others in need. And be specific in your offering. Eg. I offer my heartache for my teenager today for the sufferings of mothers whose children are in prison, or stuck in chains of addiction.
  • Start your day with a Morning Offering Prayer, so you remind yourself that in all you are and do you offer to God:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.

 Don’t regret how you’ve relented this Lent (at least not after your Holy Week Confession). Instead, focus on how you can reinvigorate your entire life with the principle of sacrifice. That’s the magic key for keeping the spirit of Lent alive and for growing in holiness.

 Next article: Tips for helping your children keep the spirit of Lent alive long after Holy Week. Glean some tips for teaching children how to develop the habits of love that are built upon the principle of sacrifice.

 Barbara


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