How to prepare for the best Lent yet

Ash Wednesday is coming up quickly. It’s time to start stocking up on cans of tuna and frozen fish sticks.

In these days before Lent begins, you—like me—might be trying to figure out what to give up or take on for the 40 days that lie ahead. I still haven’t decided, but these are some questions I am considering:

  1. What would help bring me closer to God—and the people I love? Maybe you find you’re spending too much time on your phone or watching Netflix. Maybe you’d like to go to daily Mass once or twice a week or add a rosary every morning. You could try going to the Stations of the Cross every week or two. Wouldn’t it be great to pick a tangible, simple action you could add to your day?
  2. What is something I could sacrifice? There’s a reason people give up chocolate or coffee or processed sugar. One of my brothers doesn’t eat parmesan cheese during Lent, and I am always in awe of his strength and self-control. I gave up iced tea one year and didn’t know how I would make it to Easter. Changing your daily habits and treats is a beautiful way to join your suffering to Jesus’—and it can really make you excited for Easter Sunday.
  3. Who could I walk with on my Lenten journey? Maybe you want to find a way to serve strangers in need—whether food or other support. You might feel you should spend more time with a friend or relative. You could even choose a friend who joins you in readings or prayers over the 40 days. Jump in the car with your children and make a pilgrimage to a new church together. You don’t have to take Lent on alone—and it might make for a richer experience to do it with a partner or a group.
  4. How do I want to grow in my faith? If you’ve been wanting to learn more about a particular Church teaching or saint or try a certain prayer, Lent is a great time to start. You might have an issue that keeps rising to the surface for you or that you feel particularly passionate about. Maybe that’s something you want to focus on in reading and prayer.
  5. What if my Lenten journey finds me? Be open to the fact that although you may make a plan for Lent, you may find that sickness or some other cross may come your way. Lent isn’t supposed to be a test of your endurance. If life presents you with sacrifices and challenges that are a burden all their own, you may want to set aside your plans and focus on just living day to day—perhaps even letting others help you carry your cross as part of their Lenten journey. There’s something beautiful to embracing self-care during these 40 days too.

Whatever you decide to take on, remember that Lent is a season of hope and joy, an opportunity to grow closer to Jesus, and a chance to feel the fullness of God’s love for us. And you don’t have to have a plan. All we really need is to approach Lent with an open heart and a desire to grow in love for our Lord—and an openness to receiving His love in return.

Also see:

Please don’t give up social media for Lent

 

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.