A Simple, Catholic Guide to Help You in Preparing for an Amazing Lent
Prepare for an Amazing Lent: A Simple, Catholic Guide to Help You
Growing up, I missed the true point of giving something up during Lent. (Or maybe I just ignored it because I liked cookies so much…) Once I found out that Sundays were not technically part of the 40 days of Lent, whenever I would fast from cookies or candy during Lent, I would save whatever I would have eaten during the week and eat most or all of it on Sunday. As a result, I looked forward to Sundays more than I focused on growing in my faith.
Lent is the time in the Church year when we prepare for Jesus’ suffering, death, and Resurrection. The purpose of Lent is to help us grow in our faith and become spiritually stronger. We have the opportunity during Lent to spend time in the desert with Jesus.
Three parts of Lent
Traditionally, Catholics spiritually prepare during Lent through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We can do all three (pray, fast, and give alms), two of these, or just one.
Which one should you do? Should you do all of them? One of them? Do what you did last year? Try something different than last year? A lot of questions can swirl around in your mind before Lent as you try to figure out what to do!
What can you do to prepare for an amazing Lent?
There are two things you can do to figure out how to spend your Lent: Pray about it and discern where in your life you need to grow or change. Pray and ask God to enlighten your mind and heart to what you should do for Lent. Give yourself time to pray and listen. God may not answer you in one day or give you an obvious answer. He may quietly shine a light in an area of your life that He wants you to focus on. Trust in Him to guide you.
Do you want some extra help? You can sign up here to receive a free printable Lenten Plan to help you plan an amazing Lent: Lent Plan
Prayer is communication with God.
Take time to look at how you communicate with God in your life right now. Is your prayer life currently what you want for it to be like?
What changes can you make to improve your prayer life? You don't need to make a big change for it to be a worthwhile one. Is there a prayer you have been wanting to pray, but have never prayed? Lent may be the perfect opportunity for you to begin praying it. Do you just want to make more time for prayer in your daily life? Set your timer for 5-15 minutes a day and pray.
Make a plan about what prayer you want to pray or what you want to pray about, what time each day or each week you will pray, and where you will pray. When you plan ahead, you are setting yourself up for success. As Lent goes on, you can evaluate your plan. Is it working for you? If not, make any necessary changes.
Remember, the purpose of prayer is to bring you closer to God. You keep our mind and heart turned to Him when you pray. Even 5 more minutes a day is helpful. Make sure your prayer goal is going to help draw you closer to God, not cause extra frustration or feelings of being overwhelmed in your day. Set a reasonable plan in place that may be a bit challenging, but not overwhelming or unrealistic for you.
The Church requires the faithful who are in good health and not nursing or pregnant from ages 18-59 to fast from eating between meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We are also asked to avoid meat on these days and on all the Fridays during Lent. You can read more details about Lent at the USCCB's website.
Besides this fast, some people choose to fast from other things, also called giving something up. You can fast from almost anything you can think of: sweets, junk food, coffee, social media, staying up too late, bad company, and negative influences are just a few things.
The idea is that your fast will help you to draw closer to God and to think of God more.
For example, if you fast from coffee, is coffee something you drink a lot or occasionally? Would giving it up really be a sacrifice for you? What will you replace it with? If you replace it with soda, that is not good for you. Water would be a better replacement. If you know that reaching for a cup of coffee several times each day will draw your thoughts to God, you may have found a good sacrifice for you. Every time you find yourself wanting a cup of coffee, you can think of why you are not drinking it-you are offering it as a sacrifice to God in thanksgiving for all He has done for you. You can say a prayer for God to help you to be closer to Him, or you can pray for someone you know who is in need of prayers.
The idea of a fast is to offer a sacrifice to God of something that is currently part of your life. Fasting's aim is to bring you closer to God. Think about what sacrifice will help you to draw closer to God.
When you give alms, you give part of your time, talent, or treasure to help someone in need. You give up something for the good and benefit of another. (You can read USCCB's definition of almsgiving if you want more details.)
Giving of your time may mean taking a senior friend to the grocery store. It may mean not watching your favorite show so you can call a lonely friend or do an act of service for someone.
To give your talent may mean to help at your church in an area where your talent shines-like lectoring, teaching catechism classes, landscaping, or editing the weekly bulletin. It may mean teaching someone something that you know, like how to balance a checkbook, make a meal, or knit a scarf.
Giving of your treasure can be donating money to your church or to a worthy charity. It can also mean donating food to your parish or a local food pantry or donating clothes in nice condition from your closet to your local homeless shelter.
Be creative. Almsgiving does not just mean giving money. It means giving of part of your treasures-your time, talent, and money-to help others in need.
Almsgiving reminds us that all we have comes from God; it does not really belong to us. God gave you the gifts and talents He did so that you can grow in faith and help others.
Final thoughts on preparing for an amazing Lent.
In preparing yourself for Lent, remember to set yourself up for success. You don't have to have BIG, HUGE plans. You can, if that is where God leads you, but a successful Lent is measured by how close you are to God and how often you turn our minds and hearts to Him. A successful Lent allows you to live out your vocation well as you journey with Jesus through the desert to His passion, suffering, and death on the cross so that you can truly experience the transformation that comes with His Resurrection from the dead on Easter.
More resources to help you prepare for an amazing Lent.
If you want a printable resource to help you plan your Lent this year, sign up to receive a free Lenten Plan to help you plan an amazing Lent: Lent Plan
Best Lent Ever from Dynamic Catholic contains a short video and reflection for each day in Lent.
Fr. Rocky’s 40 Lenten Lessons on the Mass from Relevant Radio has a short reflection for each day in Lent.
What will you do this Lent? Leave a comment below.