The great season of Lent is upon us. It’s a season of penance that is meant to call us to deeper conversion and put us more in touch with Jesus our Lord and the events by which he made salvation and life forever with him possible. It’s a beautiful season of examination for us in which we are to make concrete steps to root out the things in our life that are not of God. As great as this time of year is though, I must admit that there is always part of me that does not look forward to it. The idea of making some act of sacrifice, giving up something, doing some extra spiritual practice or act of charity outside of our normal routine for all the weeks of Lent can be a little daunting. In fact, throughout the season, many of us experience some degree of failure in keeping our intended observance. While it’s not a bad thing to experience some failure (for humility’s sake) in our Lenten observance, we may still wonder what we can reasonable do throughout the whole season of Lent so that it may be truly fruitful for us.
Well, who says we must do one thing throughout the whole season? Perhaps there are different things we can do – perhaps something different each week. I’d like to borrow a few great suggestions offered by our very own Bishop Callahan last year at this time, plus a few others:
1st Week - Contemplate your baptism. Everybody knows their birthday, but very few people know the date (or even place) of their baptism. That’s a shame, because the date of our baptism marks the beginning of the indwelling of the Holy Trinity within our souls – the moment when we were given a new and permanent supernatural identity. Find your baptismal certificate and display it in a place in which it will serve as a spiritual reminder to you. In your prayer each day, reflect on the fact that you are a son or daughter of God, and reflect on the spiritual journey of your life up to the present. What has works God done and how has he been present throughout your life, both in the joys and sorrows? The joy you find in your baptism should be connected to the joy of Easter to come.
2nd Week - Do some spiritual practice or activity. Take up some special prayer or devotion that you don’t often do – perhaps the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Go to daily Mass throughout the week if it is at a time you are able to go. Read about the life of a particular saint and develop a relationship with them to assist you in your walk with the Lord.
3rd Week - Corporal Works of Mercy. Since we are in the Holy Year of Mercy, focus on performing one or more of these corporal works: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.
4th Week - Spiritual Works of Mercy. Focus on performing one or more of these spiritual works: admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead.
5th Week - Learn more about your faith. Dedicate time each day to reading the Scriptures, a portion of the Catechism, or some other catechetical book. Check out the Lighthouse Media Kiosk or website.
6th Week - Fully engage Holy Week. Attend as many of the Holy Week liturgies as you are able. Read the Passion narratives beforehand and place yourself in them. Of all the persons mentioned in the narratives, whom do you identify with most?