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Are you looking for ideas to help you with your Lenten experience? Here are 40 ideas to fill the 40 days of Lent and the beginning of the Easter season.



  1. Attempt a more intentional prayer life – start a habit in the morning and before bedtime.
  2. Attend Mass on Ash Wednesday. Wear your ashes out into the world as a witness to our faith.
  3. Make a prayer basket at home – slips of paper or construction paper hearts (invite kids to participate) writing names or intentions that each person around the table picks out before each meal.
  4. Attend a weekday Mass.
  5. Pray the rosary.
  6. Make a point of experiencing the sacrament of reconciliation at the beginning and end of Lent. Consider inviting someone who’s been away from the sacrament to join you.
  7. Pray for someone with whom you are out of touch.
  8. Give up meat on Fridays but don’t substitute lobster – make fasting something that is truly sacrificial.
  9. Resolve to stop engaging in rumors, gossip, and negative chatter that devalues others.
  10. Begin and end each week with an e-mail thanking someone for all that they do.
  11. Be sure to say grace at any restaurant you frequent (don’t dodge making the Sign of the Cross either).
  12. Buy a cup of coffee for someone living on the street but not until you learn their name and exchange in some conversation.
  13. Pray before the Blessed Sacrament.
  14. Reconcile with someone you’ve hurt or aren’t speaking to.
  15. Invite someone who’s been away from the church to attend Mass with you.
  16. Make a gift to a charitable cause – make it a sacrificial gift.
  17. Attend a parish or diocesan event centered on faith issues.
  18. Thank a bishop, priest or member of a religious congregation for their public witness – invite them out for coffee or a meal.
  19. Learn about the life of a saint, perhaps your parish saint.
  20. Visit someone who’s alone.
  21. Reflect on the most pressing challenges confronting our Church and pray for a Spirit-filled response.
  22. Pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.
  23. Attend the Stations of the Cross.
  24. Find out if there is a person participating in your parish’s RCIA program and send a note of encouragement.
  25. Find out how your diocese is involved in refugee resettlement and see how you can help.
  26. Attend your parish’s Good Friday liturgy, squeeze in and make room in your pew to give others a spot to sit.
  27. Make time for family activities that are faith-related such as reading the Bible as a family.
  28. Keep a journal during Lent about your spiritual highs/lows.
  29. Make a playlist of spiritual music that you enjoy and share it with a friend.
  30. Embrace periods of silence in each day.
  31. Attend a parish mission or Lenten Retreat; invite others to join you.
  32. Offer to be part of the church preparation crew or cleanup crew for the Easter Triduum liturgies.
  33. Commit to a parish ministry or try a different ministry than the one you in which you are currently engaged.
  34. Cut your media consumption to open time for prayer or scripture reading. Start and end each day free from the influence of the media.
  35. Attend a Friday fish fry at a local parish with friends or co- workers. It’s not the healthiest meal, but a fun Catholic tradition to join others and help you abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent.
  36. Find a form of Lenten fast appropriate for your age and state of health.
  37. Buy a book of daily spiritual reflections, keep it by your bed and read it upon rising or retiring or both.
  38. Dedicate a portion of your time during Lent to serve others such as working at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
  39. Participate in Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Rice Bowl collection. Visit crsricebowl.org to watch videos of the people and communities you support through your Lenten gifts to CRS Rice Bowl.
  40. Invite someone you know who will be alone to Easter Sunday dinner.
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Next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph is the most honored saint in the Catholic Church for being the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary. His traditional feast day is March 19. Joseph’s life is depicted in the gospels, particularly in Matthew and Luke. He was born in

Bethlehem and is described as being a descendant of King David.

Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but was pregnant with the Christ child before Joseph took her into his home. According to Jewish law at the time, Mary could have been stoned to death if she was believed to have been unfaithful to her betrothed. An angel of the Lord told Joseph to take Mary into his home, that the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that his name would be Jesus.

After Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem, in yet another dream, Joseph was told to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt and remain there until Herod’s slaughter of newborns had come to an end with Herod’s own death. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus returned to the region of Galilee and settled in Nazareth where Joseph taught his craft of carpentry to Jesus. Joseph is last mentioned in the Gospels when, on their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he and Mary frantically searched for the lost Jesus in Jerusalem, and found him in the Temple (Luke 2:42–52).

Saint Joseph was declared patron saint and protector of the universal Church by Pope Pius IX at the close of the First Vatican Council in 1870. He is also considered a spiritual model for families and Christian teaching frequently stresses his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities Christians should reflect upon and embrace. He is the patron saint of fathers, foster fathers, husbands, the unborn, working people in general and social justice.

Saint Joseph is the patron saint of several countries including Canada, China, Korea, Mexico and

Peru. Many cities, towns, and other locations are named after Saint Joseph as well; and it has been noted that the Spanish form of Saint Joseph, San Jose, is the most common place name in the world.

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Merciful Lord,

As we prepare for our journey of renewal toward the great paschal feast of Easter,

teach us to be good stewards of

your mercy and forgiveness,

so that we may extend these gifts to others.

Give us the strength to bear witness to you at all times,

even in times of stress and adversity.

And fill our hearts with love that we may be faithful to the Gospel Jesus proclaimed

and ready to celebrate his resurrection.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

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  1. Recommit yourself to your marriage every single day.If you want to cultivate a strong and happy marriage, start each morning by making a renewed personal commitment to keeping your relationship healthy and rewarding. Start by remembering what you said you’d do in your wedding vows: Love your spouse. Honor her (or him!) Cherish her. Comfort her. Remain faithful to her. Do these things in good times and bad, in sickness and in health — every day of your marriage.
  2. Take responsibility and stop trying to fix your partner. It’s always best to look at how your own behavior could improve before you try to change your spouse’s.
  3. Evaluate where your self-worth comes from. I believe that the happiest couples draw a lot of their self-worth from their relationships with each other. Ask yourself whether or not you’re consistently relying on something other than your marriage, like your job, to make you feel good about yourself. Yes, it’s okay to proudly say, “I’m the manager of my division at work,” but you should also be able to say, “I am the world’s luckiest man to be married to my wife,” with the same sense of accomplishment.
  4. Consistently verbalize to your spouse the things you love and appreciate about him or her. Complimenting your partner will make her feel great in the moment, and doing so consistently is the single greatest long-term vitamin you can give your marriage. Start by reminding yourself of all of the reasons why you fell in love with him or her in the first place, and then list how much more wonderful your partner has gotten since then. Also, tell her (or him!) how much she means to you, how much you love her, and how beautiful she is ten times a day. We can’t count on hearing compliments from our kids, our coworkers, or even our friends, and we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else ever could be. Over time, this lack of positive reinforcement makes us feel small and unhappy. Make it your personal mission to ensure that your spouse feels as valued and appreciated as possible.
  5. Acknowledge the little things your spouse does and return the favor. In addition to complimenting your spouse, perform small but meaningful acts of kindness. For example, if your wife hates unloading the dishwasher, make a point to get into the kitchen and put away the dishes first. Acts like this don’t take much time or energy, but they show your spouse that you are paying attention and that you care — and that is truly priceless! And when you’re on the receiving end, be sure to say thank you. You’ll perpetuate a positive cycle of giving and getting in which neither party feels ignored or taken for granted.
  6. Learn — and then do — what makes your spouse feel most loved. While any expression of love is, of course, a good thing, we all feel loved in different ways. Even if you feel most valued when your husband gives you a hug, the same might not be true for him. It’s important to ask your spouse, “What have I done in the past that made you feel the most special?” Some people might want a date night. Others might need to be told verbally that they are the greatest. Whatever your spouse’s response is, be sure to include those actions or words into your regular repertoire.
  7. Don’t let resentment build. When you live in fairly close quarters with another human being, it’s inevitable that sooner or later you’re going to annoy and anger each other. While it’s not a good idea to nit-pick, don’t let negative feelings build up and fester. Even if you have to go for a walk to clear your head first, be sure to express your frustrations in a calm, constructive way — preferably before you go to bed angry. Also, remember that this is a two-way street. When your spouse is upset with you, make every effort not to fly off the handle and to fairly consider what you’re hearing. Marriage does involve compromising and modifying your behavior for another’s well-being — and believe me, your mutual happiness is worth it. If you and your spouse reach a point where you’re unable to address problems without raised voices and heated emotions, marriage counseling may be a good option because each person has the opportunity to voice dissatisfactions without being interrupted. Remember, seeking out help does not mean that you are weak or that you have failed — it means that you are acting wisely and responsibly for the good of your marriage and your future.
  8. Take responsibility and stop trying to fix your partner. It’s always best to look at how your own behavior could improve before you try to change your spouse’s. When you begin to take responsibility for areas in which you may have been dropping the ball, the dynamic of your marriage will change. Perhaps your spouse has been trapped in a cycle of negativity that has been fed by your own less-than-helpful attitude. Plus, when you begin to behave more positively, there’s a good chance your partner will begin to mirror your behavior. If, for example, you want your husband to send you love letters, start by sending love letters to him first. If you want your wife to say, “I love you” more often, start assuring her of the same thing more frequently.
  9. Figure out what your strengths are and play to them. You and your spouse should each play to your strengths within your marriage and back away from your weaknesses. If, for example, you’re great with words but don’t have much of a math brain, don’t take on the task of making sure the bills are paid and the accounts are balanced each month. Instead, take the lead in dealing with teachers, repairmen, etc. When you force yourself to do something for which you have little aptitude, you only frustrate yourself and, by extension, the people with whom you live.
  10. Date your spouse again. After a few years of marriage, many couples find that they’re going weeks at a time without having any serious conversations that don’t revolve around work, money, or kids. That’s why it’s imperative to set aside time to date your spouse and invest in the romantic part of your relationship. Without that so-called “spark,” the other parts of your life, like work and kids, will suffer too. Try to act like you did when you were both in the infatuation period of your relationship: Bring home flowers or other small gifts. Plan a special date night (maybe involving a babysitter this time around!). Get tickets to the reunion tour of a band you and your spouse loved when you first began dating. Basically, get back to the essence of how you fell in love in the first place!
  11. Put your Marriage in the hands of the Lord each week: Go to Mass every Sunday with your spouse/family, pay attention to everything that takes place as it occurs, and before you leave…ask yourself…. what is the one thing that stood out the most for me.  Then go to breakfast, and talk about it with your spouse/family.  Never underestimate the importance of celebrating, respecting, loving, and prioritizing your spouse each and every day.
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Gracious God,

You sent us Your Spirit

to help us

live the Gospel

according to the gifts

we have been given.

 

Show us how to be

good stewards of

your grace and

passionate followers

of Christ, Your Son.

 

Grant us the wisdom

to recognize that

through His gift of the Eucharist

there is one bread,

and we are one body.

 

Give us the strength

to proclaim His Good News

in word and deed.

 

And teach us to live,

no longer for ourselves,

but in Jesus Christ

who lives and reigns with You

and the Holy Spirit,

one God forever and ever.

 

AMEN

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According to the Acts of the Apostles (10:45) the first pagan converted to Christ was an officer of the imperial Roman army. Cornelius the Centurion is described by the scriptures as a devout man who feared God, gave alms generously, and prayed constantly to God (10:1-2). Cornelius and the Apostle Peter had simultaneous visions that eventually brought them together (10:5; 10:15) at Cornelius’ house and in the presence of Cornelius’ whole household. Peter assured Cornelius that God shows no partiality and briefly related the history of Jesus’ preaching and death. At this, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all who were listening, Jew and Gentile alike. Peter was so astounded that the Spirit was given to the pagans as well as the Jews that he readily acceded to Cornelius’ request for baptism for himself and his entire household. When some of the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem learned of what had happened, they criticized Peter severely. Later a Council had to be convened, headed by James to settle the dispute (Acts 15). Peter was vindicated, and a new missionary outreach to the Gentiles was inaugurated. Cornelius’ feast day is February 4.

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Neumann, a small individual at 5’2”, arrived in Manhattan in June 1836 and was ordained three weeks later for the Diocese of New York. His first assignment was to provide pastoral care for a German-speaking immigrant community whose members were clearing forests for a settlement near Niagara Falls. After four years of working alone, Neumann joined the Redemptorists (Congregation for the Most Holy Redeemer, C.SS.R.), and took permanent vows in January 1842.

Neumann spoke eight languages and became a popular preacher for many different immigrant communities in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. Eventually, he was elected to head the Redemptorists in the United States.

John Nepomucene Neumann was born in Bohemia in 1811 and named by his parents after the patron saint of Bohemia. Neumann was known to be an exceptionally gifted seminarian, intellectually and spiritually. He studied at the University of Prague and traveled to the United States to be a missionary after his bishop decided to postpone ordinations due to an oversupply of priests in the diocese.

In 1852 Neumann was appointed the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, a diocese that spanned the eastern half of Pennsylvania and the state of Delaware. As soon as he was ordained he embarked on an ambitious diocesan building campaign and was responsible for building over 100 parishes and 80 Catholic schools. He completed an unfinished cathedral and founded a new congregation of women, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, to help staff the increasingly crowded schools. Neumann also wrote two German catechisms that were approved by the First Plenary Council of Baltimore, the first of three national meetings of United States Catholic bishops held in 1852 in Baltimore, Maryland. His Baltimore catechisms were translated into other languages and widely used in the United States for the remainder of the 19th century.

On January 5, 1862, Bishop Neumann collapsed on a Philadelphia street and died. He was 48 years old. Philadelphia’s historical annals reveal that half the city’s population attended his funeral, including the mayor, police and fire brigades, military battalions and a number of civic and Catholic societies and benevolent organizations. He was buried under the altar of the lower church of the Redemptorist parish, St. Peter. His burial site quickly became a shrine, attracting thousands of pilgrims. Saint John Nepomucene Neumann was canonized on June 17, 1977. His feast day is January 5.

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The day after Christmas is called “St. Stephen’s Day” to commemorate the first Christian martyr. It is also this “Feast of Stephen” that is mentioned in the English Christmas carol, “Good King Wenceslas.”

Stephen was a Greek-speaking Jew living in Jerusalem. He became a follower of Jesus Christ and was one of seven individuals chosen by the twelve apostles to serve tables, look after the distribution of the community funds (alms), especially to widows, and assist in the ministry of preaching.

Stephen was also a leader in the Christian group known as the “Hellenists,” a community that had its own synagogues where the scriptures were read in Greek. The Hellenist Christians maintained that the new Christian faith could not grow unless it separated itself from Judaism and specifically the Temple and the Mosaic law. The Hellenists also urged the expansion of the Church’s mission to the Gentiles.

The elders in a number of neighboring synagogues opposed Stephen and the Hellenists and charged him with blasphemy for saying that the Temple would be destroyed and that Jesus had set aside the Mosaic law even though Stephen maintained that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not set it aside.

When dragged before the Sanhedrin, the supreme legal court of Jewish elders, Stephen made an eloquent defense of the Hellenist Christian teaching. He charged his accusers of trying to stifle the movement of the Holy Spirit, of persecuting those who spoke prophetically and of betraying and murdering Jesus. Then he looked up to heaven and began to describe a vision he was having of the recently executed Jesus standing on the right side of God.

The council erupted into a furor and its members began shouting, covered their ears and ordered Stephen to be dragged outside the city and executed. As he was being stoned to death, Stephen asked God to forgive his attackers while the witnesses to his martyrdom placed their cloaks at the feet of Saul of Tarsus who consented to Stephen’s death. Saul would later undergo a conversion experience and become Saint Paul.

Saint Stephen was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages and in many countries his feast day of December 26 is still a public holiday. He is the patron saint of deacons and his name is included in Eucharistic Prayer I of the Mass.

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Saint Albert the Great was a 13th-century German Dominican priest, considered one of the most extraordinary men of his age alongside Peter Lombard, Roger Bacon and Saint Thomas Aquinas. His stewardship of the intellectual life, his students and our life of faith is profound.

Born in 1200, near Ulm, Albert was the eldest son of a powerful and wealthy German family. He was educated in the liberal arts at the University of Padua, Italy, and against his family’s wishes, joined the Dominican Order in 1223.

He earned his doctorate at the University of Paris and taught theology with much success in a number of medieval German universities, including Cologne.

For a time Albert was the pope’s personal theologian, and in 1260 was appointed bishop of Regensburg, Germany, against his will. He remained for only three years before returning his time and energy to teaching and writing in Cologne. He enhanced his reputation for humility by refusing to ride horses. Instead, he walked back and forth across his huge diocese, keeping with the rules of the Dominican order.

Albert’s influence on scholars is substantial. His fame is due in part to being the forerunner, spiritual guide and teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas. But he also composed an encyclopedia containing treatises on almost every branch of learning known at the time. His work fills thirty-eight volumes and covers subjects ranging from astronomy and chemistry to geography and philosophy. His knowledge of science was considerable, and for the age remarkably accurate. He also displayed an insight into nature and a knowledge of theology that surprised his contemporaries, who named him “Magnus” (“the Great”) to recognize his genius. Albert even inspired a mystical school of theology among fellow Dominicans such as Meister Eckhart.

Albert participated in the Second Council of Lyons, France, in 1274, the fourteenth of the Catholic Church’s 21 great councils (Vatican II was the twenty-first). On his way to the council, he was shocked to learn of Aquinas’ death at age 49, and he publicly defended his former student against attacks on the Catholicity of his writings.

After suffering from what is now thought to be Alzheimer’s disease, Albert died in Cologne on November 15, 1280. He was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1931, one of only 33 individuals bestowed that honor. His tomb is in the crypt of the Dominican church in Cologne, and his relics are in the Cologne Cathedral. His feast day is November 15.

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Luke is the author of the third Gospel and was a companion of Saint Paul. According to reliable tradition, he was a Syrian physician from Antioch who wrote his Gospel in Achaea (Greece). Both the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles are attributed to Luke, because he appears to be the person intended by the first-person reference in Acts. The opening of Acts refers to the Gospel and is dedicated to the same person, Theophilus.

The basic point of Luke’s New Testament writings is to emphasize the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. Luke also has an interest in the reality of poverty and reveals a deep concern for the poor, the outcast, and the underprivileged throughout the Gospel.

Stewardship is a major theme in Luke’s Gospel. As a matter of fact, what emerges from Luke’s writings is a sophisticated theology of stewardship that is unique to his Gospel and not addressed so profoundly by other New Testament writers. Luke defines the duty and role of a steward as a unique sort of servant who is entrusted with material possessions by a master, takes charge of them and is required to use them prudently.

Luke envisions the steward as not having any possessions or property of his own, but as taking care of his master’s property and wealth until the master summons him to turn in an account of his stewardship.

There is a finiteness to stewardship. According to Luke, a steward carries out his responsibilities with alertness, knowing that the master’s return may come at any time. And depending on the quality of his stewardship, there is the anticipation of a reward as a result of his stewardship. Luke believes stewards are not just a chosen or appointed few. Stewardship is the responsibility of all Christian disciples.

Luke takes his basic ideas of stewardship and applies them to the motif of material possessions as well, instructing his readers on the right use of wealth and the wrong use of wealth.

Finally, Luke’s concept of almsgiving, based on his theology of stewardship, was unique and radical at the time of his writing. Almsgiving was considered an obligation of Christian disciples; imperative inside and outside the community. Luke enjoined his readers to look upon the poor with genuine sympathy and urged those with material resources to remember their identity as stewards, to distribute their wealth to the poor as alms, and to give up ownership of their own material possessions.

Luke is the patron saint of physicians, artists and butchers. His feast day is October 18.

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