Can you believe that Lent is here already? It is helpful to spend time thinking about how we want to experience Lent before it really gets underway. Each year as I plan what to do for Lent, I find it helpful to focus on three different aspects: sacrifice, growth, and prayer. I look at what I can do in my life in these three areas as I plan how to have a meaningful Lent.
(If you are starting to feel overwhelmed at the thought of looking three areas of your life during Lent, please don’t worry. You can skip down to the Important note! section for an idea just for you.)
Free Lenten resources:
Best Lent Ever from Dynamic Catholic
Fr. Rocky’s 40 Lenten Lessons on the Mass from Relevant Radio
Genesis to Jesus scripture study with Scott Hahn from St. Paul Center
Plan ahead to have a meaningful Lent.
1. Sacrifice: What will I give up?
It may be easy to say, “I will give up sweets,” or “I’ll give up soda,” for Lent, but make sure you put some thought into it. Will giving up sweets or soda help to draw you closer to God? If you reach for sweets or soda daily, giving them up will mean that you will think of Jesus and His sacrifice every time you reach for or think about something sweet or soda. This could be a good choice for you for a sacrifice. If sweets or soda are things you give up easily or don’t have too often, this may not be the right choice for you. Take the time to really think about what a good sacrifice would be for you this Lent.
Is there something in your life that is drawing you away from God? Or, do you have a behavior that is not in line with what God teaches? Lent is a good time to evaluate your life to see what you can change to make yourself a better person and draw closer to God.
We have a friend who gave up gossip for Lent a few years ago. She knew that she should not be participating in gossip and decided to stop. It was quite challenging, yet she did it. It made a positive impact on her life and she continued to be aware of gossip and minimize it in her life after Lent as well.
The goal of choosing sacrifice for Lent is that what we chose really is a sacrifice on our part. Think and pray about what you can give up. Whether it is a food or a behavior, it should be something that will cause you to think of Jesus and His sacrifice whenever you make the effort to avoid it or amend your ways. Each time you do, you will think of Jesus and you can say a prayer to thank Him for His sacrifice on the cross for you.
2. Growth: What will I add to my life to help me to grow spiritually?
What can I add to my life to make it better or to draw closer to God?
Lent is a period of the Church year when we reflect on Jesus’ passion and death for our sins and we prepare to celebrate His resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. It is good to add something to our lives that will help us to more fully connect in our hearts with Jesus’ sacrifice for us and contemplate what that means to us. We can also reflect on how we can live our lives better in light of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.
Some ideas are:
- Read the Bible each day. (See “Creating A Simple Bible Reading Plan” if you need some ideas.)
- Do acts of service for others.
- Read about the saint of the day each day.
- Volunteer at your parish.
- Write a letter to God each week. Contemplate His passion and death, ask Him questions, and share your heart with Him.
- Read a biography of a saint.
- Read a book about our Catholic faith.
- Spend time thinking about Lent and meditating on Jesus’ passion and death on the cross.
- Go to Confession.
- Attend a retreat or schedule time for a retreat after Lent.
- Have a retreat day or half day for yourself: meditate on scripture and spend time in prayer.
- Look into third order religious communities.
Pray about this. Ask yourself: what can I add to my life that will help me to draw closer to God during this Lenten season?
3. Prayer: How will I spend more time in prayer?
Adding more prayer to our lives during Lent can help us to draw closer to God and understand Him better. You may decide to spend more time in personal prayer or pray with others. Praying the Stations of the Cross is something you can by yourself or with other church members. Most churches have a scheduled time for people to gather in the church to pray the Stations of the Cross together during Lent.
Some other ideas:
- Attend Mass on a day during the week.
- Pray the Rosary more often.
- Spend time in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.
- Attend one or more of the Triduum liturgies: Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday service, and Holy Saturday Mass.
- Make the effort to be more mindful of God in your daily life.
Pray and spend time thinking about what you will do to add more prayer to your life to enhance your Lent experience and draw closer to God.
I just want to make a comment here. If you have read this post (or just the introductory paragraph) and thought to yourself, “there is NO WAY that I can add three things to my life this Lent!” Don’t add three things. Add one thing. Or take away one thing.
The purpose of Lent is to draw us closer to Jesus as we contemplate His passion and death for our salvation. If all you do this Lent is think about that, you will have done something to bring you closer to God and to a deeper understanding of His incredible love for you.
Pray about what God is calling you to do (or not to do) this Lent. Know that He has the perfect plan for you. You can trust in Him.
Spend time thinking and praying about how to have a meaningful Lent. I find it helpful to look at three different areas and make a plan to do something in each one:
- Sacrifice: What will I give up?
- Growth: What will I add to my life to help me to grow spiritually?
- Pray: Spend more time in prayer.
Pray and trust in God to lead you to where you need to be this Lent. He will help you to draw closer to Him.