Lent. The four letter word and season that rolls around every year just after we Catholics have celebrated the start to the new liturgical year and the birth of Christ. Sometimes, I must admit, I love Lent. I look forward to the solemn time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes, I also must admit, I slightly dread the six weeks of somber liturgies, the doldrums of winter and the six weeks that seemingly go on FOR.EVER.
Regardless of my season of life and feelings towards the season, Lent comes to us every year and in the beauty of Mother Church, it comes before the Easter season allowing us time to grow closer to the Lord.
Before we get tips and tricks out there let's establish what Lent is not!
- Lent is not another go at the New Year’s resolutions.
- Lent is not (just) about giving up sweets.
- Lent is not about self punishment.
- Lent is not a time for suffering for suffering’s sake.
Here is what it really is!
Lent is the 40 days (not including Sundays) of prayer, fasting and almsgiving beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending at sunset on Holy Thursday. This is a period of preparation for the coming of Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter.
In comparison to a restart of potential New Year’s resolutions, Lent is a time for seeking the Lord.
It is not just about giving up added sugar! In fact, we are highly encouraged to look beyond the fridge or pantry for your Lenten fast. In addition to meatless Fridays, sign up here for easy meal ideas and snag our coloring pages, Lent is a time to practice self-control. Whether it be giving up complaining, limiting screen time, or no heat in your car, these sacrifices increase our self control.
Lent is also a time for maybe adding a habit or practice of prayer and scripture. Consider adding the Daily Examen journal to your daily prayer routine, spending the first five minutes of your day reading Scripture, or going to daily Mass as a family once a week. Rather than just giving up sweets, the addition of spiritual habits and the giving up of something more than a tasty treat helps us to have a greater conversion of heart to seek the Lord more faithfully.
Giving alms is also part of the Lenten practice. Not only giving financially, but the giving of time and talent shares God’s gifts to others. Start at home by reading with your children for ten more minutes, or playing with them when they ask.
Whether we are ready or not, when Lent rolls around, “the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” CCC540. We are blessed to be there together.