Very soon the season of Lent will be upon us. It is a season that offers us forty days to review our lives and focus on conversion and spiritual transformation. It is basically a spiritual “spring training,” a time when we go back to the basics of our faith formation through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other penitential practices in order to improve and enhance our spiritual lives. Our aim is to prepare ourselves to more fully participate in the paschal mystery of Holy Week with a generous heart and renewed commitment to Christ. It is not too early to consider some of the following ideas for making the upcoming Lenten season even more meaningful this year.
- Identify some penitential practice you can realistically commit to every day. It’s easy to become distracted and suddenly discover that Lent is half over. A daily commitment will keep you focused. Think about marking it in your calendar this week. You can even start a bit early and get yourself prepared to be faithful to your commitment.
2. Make time in your daily schedule for private prayer, even if it is only ten minutes. Remember, improving our spiritual lives starts with prayer, and the silence of an empty room where we begin to listen to God is invaluable. Prayer requires reserving time for God.
3. Reduce your daily or weekly soft drink or alcohol intake as a spiritual discipline. Drink water and pray for those who lack access to a safe, reliable source of drinking water.
4. It’s become a cliché that people are addicted to communication technologies. “Give up” some of your “screen time” each day, whether it’s watching television, constantly checking your phone, or surfing the Web. Put the extra time to use: read a passage from Scripture, call or visit a lonely friend or relative, pray the Rosary.
5. Don’t shop for clothes during Lent. Stay out of every store except the supermarket and pharmacy, and don’t loiter at these places either. Reflect on what it is like for millions in the world who have little or no discretionary income.
6. Make an extra gift to the poor with the money you save. (See #5)
7. Find a way to reduce your daily home energy consumption. With just five percent of the world’s population, people living in the U.S. consume 24% of its available energy. Make it a spiritual exercise.
8. Give up negative thinking. Work on a patient, positive attitude toward others. Catch yourself when you mentally berate someone and turn it into a prayer for that person.
9. Take Luke 3:11 seriously. Do you have extra clothes languishing in a closet? Take an afternoon to clean a closet, give a “tunic” or two to a good cause, and prayerfully reflect on how well you are using the world’s resources.
10. Pray with the Church. Attend an extra Mass during the week or participate in a devotion that inspires you.