It seemed that Ordinary Time had just settled in when I turned my calendar to February and noticed that Ash Wednesday was only 3 weeks away. As of today, it sits two weeks from tomorrow. So that got me thinking…
Lent is a journey. Now, if you’re like me, most times well before you’ve embarked on the journey, you did some planning – made reservations for lodging or travel, packed a suitcase, scheduled an itinerary, and made arrangements for the pets, newspaper, and mail. Lent is really the same thing, only we don’t have to physically go anywhere (but it’s always nice if we can), but we do need to plan – or we’ll end up nowhere in particular.
So I write today to encourage you to start planning for this year’s Lenten journey. Here are a few suggestions:
Choose a Lenten theme: maybe it’s a particular virtue in which you need to grow; maybe it’s a bad habit you want to change or a good habit you want to gain; maybe it’s performing a particular act of charity more regularly; or maybe it’s something as simple as practicing silence. Whatever it is, make it your focus for the season. Sometimes, I’ve made big plans for Lent, only to do many things poorly. Having an overarching focus will help to achieve that goal.
Go to daily Mass at least one day during the week. If you already go, see if you can add an additional day. Great graces come from daily Mass. If possible, go on Friday in special devotion to our Lord’s Passion.
Meditate on the Passion. In some of the reading I’ve done over the past 6 months or so, I’ve run across quotes from different saints about the importance of meditating on the passion as a means to grow in holiness. Jesus told Saint Faustina, “There is more merit to one hour of meditation on My sorrowful Passion than there is to a whole year of flagellation that draws blood; the contemplation of My painful wounds is of great profit to you, and it brings Me great joy.” (source)
Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, especially at the hour of mercy 3:00.
Pray the Stations of the Cross. Many churches offer stations on Fridays during Lent. If you can make it, do. Sometimes, however, it’s hard to get to church at that particular hour, but you can always just do them at home. You don’t actually need the stations themselves; you can simply use a guide book to help you with the prayer. (Here’s a link for stations you can print out.) The Marians of the Immaculate conception have a terrific app for the iPhone called “Divine Mercy in my Soul”. It has the stations built-in. I have found this really helpful. I’ll often meditate on one of the stations before going to bed. Having it handy helps a whole bunch.
Read a good spiritual book. I have a three that I like for this season: The Way of Divine Love, by Sr. Josefa Menendez and Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley are great Lenten reads. The Way of Divine Love is excellent and very deep. Consoling is a lighter, easier read, and wonderful in a different way. I also like Life of the Beloved, by Henri Nouwen. It’s a lot shorter than the other books, which might make it more doable, but it doesn’t have quite as much of the Lenten theme. Nonetheless, it’s one of my faves.
Pray about your Lenten fast, asking the Holy Spirit what you need to do that 1) is doable, and 2) will help you grow closer to Jesus. Also pray about what almsgiving the Lord wants you to do. Whenever we ask God to show us something that will help us to grow in our spiritual lives, He promptly replies. Once he shows you, do it.
If you don’t already do so, pray the rosary. If praying it daily is too much, choose one day a week when you will do it. I can tell you, though, if you get up just a little bit earlier every day – say about 15 minutes – you will be able to start your day in a most excellent way – with the rosary. It is a complete blessing. When Lent is done, you won’t want to stop, and you will be eternally grateful.
Plan a retreat if you’re able. I know this isn’t always practical between the time and expense it takes, but your retreat can be something as simple as planning and making time to go to adoration or to sit in front of the tabernacle for an hour a week. The important factor is the retreat part – getting away from the regular routine of life to give yourself to Jesus.
Work as a family in a soup kitchen or in your parish or in a crisis pregnancy center – find some way that you can actively share your Lenten sacrifice as a family.
These are just a few suggestions. They may or may not fit with your life or with where you are spiritually. That’s really not important. What is important is that you chart your course for the journey ahead so that you can reach your destination.
Finally, if you have children living at home, encourage them to do the same – plan their Lenten journey, so they, too, will grow closer to the Lord. Sometimes all they need is to be asked, and if you’re the mom, you can ask in a way no one else can.
May God bless you & keep you, Anne