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March 15th, 2015

Things To Do During Lent

Things to do during lent

Lent – These 40 days before Easter are a wonderful time to rethink everything and to allow ourselves to take up our crosses as Christ once did. Watch this lent video showing 40 days of Jesus in the desert.

1. Decide on your Lenten sacrifice

Lent is a season of solemnity and sacrifice commemorating Jesus’ exodus into the desert; our sacrifice is a reminder of the sacrifice of self Jesus made to save us from our sins. Because of this, it is a Lenten tradition to sacrifice something for these 40 days. Think about all the trivial things in your life that shift your focus away from God. Do you find that you dedicate more time to sending text messages and posting status updates than to prayer and time with God? Do you have a habit of eating junk food excessively? What is something your life could do without? Prepare for Lent.

2. Include something special in your Lenten routine

Giving up chocolate or Facebook for 40 days is great, but why not do something positive, too, instead of just removing the negative? Resolve to spend more time volunteering, with your family, pray more, or somehow get in touch with your faith. Some families decide to set aside their spare change during these 40 days and do something with that money. Either donate it to the church or to a local charity, or spend it on goods for those in need. It’s a nice touch to this season, focusing on those that don’t have anything to sacrifice in the first place. Think about what Lent means to me.

3. Attend Mass as often as possible

In addition to weekly Sunday service, it’s good to go to church frequently, especially during Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday when we remember that we come from dust and to dust we shall return. Many traditions often have an additional worship service in mid-week, and attendance at these services is a good way to participate in Lent.

4. Go to Reconciliation

Reconciliation, or Confession, is a wonderful way to turn away from sin and reunite yourself with Christ. If you don’t already, try getting into the habit of going to Confession on a regular basis. The Catholic Church has made it obligatory that all the faithful receive the sacrament of Penance at least once a year and once during the season of Lent, though it’s recommended that you attend Confession at least once a month if possible. Your church probably offers weekly confessional services, if not more during this time of year. If you’re not sure when to go, pick up a local bulletin or just make a quick phone call! You can schedule private confessions as well. Understand that Lent is the path to freedom.

5. Spend time on devotions

Though not required, devotions are a great way to put yourself in the right mindset for Lent. The Church highly encourages Adoration of God or the veneration of the Blessed Virgin and the saints. Your local parish probably has regular Eucharistic Adoration, where you can go to sit and engage in deep prayer, in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. To practice veneration, you could say a decade of the Rosary daily, or pray to your patron saint. Any prayer, so long as it means something to you, is a step in the direction God intended. If you have a prayer you’ve grown up with that speaks to you, resolve to spend more time focusing on what it truly means and how you can embody that prayer in your everyday life.

6. Take time for self-examination and reflection

Christmas and Easter are times of happiness and joy; while the preceding and succeeding seasons are cheery and bright, the same cannot be said about Lent. It is a time of simplicity and solemnity. It is a time to reflect on your dependence on God’s mercy and your understanding of faith. Take moments during this time to think about how you embody Christ’s message. To top it all off, Lent, in most climes, is during winter — when just a look out the window is a somber reminder of the tribulations Jesus went through for our happiness.

7. Fast and abstain

All Catholics aged fourteen and older are asked to abstain from meat on Lenten Fridays, though fish is allowed to be eaten. Additionally, Catholics aged 18-59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Lenten Fridays, meaning that only one full meal may be eaten in the day. Of course, do this however you feel is safe and effective. Some people should definitely not fast (the pregnant or the elderly, for example). If fasting isn’t a reasonable option for you, fast from something other than food. Make sure it’s something that’s a challenge — like your phone or email — so you can feel the sacrifice you’re making. Read about what to give up for lent.

8. Take something on

While many people choose to give harmful things up for Lent, you could use the season to help you build good habits. You could promise to be more patient and kind toward your neighbor, or you could vow to help the needy. Whether you choose to sacrifice or to adopt new, strengthening habits, you should allow your Lenten promises to help you grow in faith and virtue. In addition to bettering your own life, take this time to build habits that better the lives of others. Volunteer at a hospital or shelter, or simply get more active in your church by offering to greet, read, or take care of the offerings.

9. Have a Seder meal

Though some see it as largely a Jewish tradition, that is not the case! On Holy (or Maundy) Thursday, many Catholics have a seder meal, commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus — the very last day of Lent. You eat the “meal” in silence, reflecting on your Lenten experiences with unleavened bread and wine (or grape juice). How has this Lent changed you? If you’d like to get a little historical with it, try including matzah (unleavened bread), maror (horseradish root), egg, or haroset (apple, spice, and red wine mixture) as part of your meal.

10. Promote a communal alms-giving project

Many communities choose to partake in something like Operation Rice Bowl during this season, offering help to those communities that are in need. It’s possible your Church already has something like this going on — but if not, start the ball rolling yourself! This is the perfect time to focus on bettering the world, just as Jesus did. Any charity in the area can be the basis of your project. All you need to do is get your parish on board. Talk to your priest and see if he can help urge the masses to get behind a good cause.

11. Add purple adornments to your living space

The color of Lent is purple – a quick stroll by any church will make that abundantly clear. Add a few touches of deep, royal purple into your home to remind you that these 40 days are quite meaningful. But do keep it simple — Lent is hardly a time for overabundance. A few purple candles, a purple table runner — nothing too gaudy, eye-catching, or unnecessary. It’s a time of reserve and preparation for growth. Save the excess for Easter!

12. Make a Lenten calendar

Such a calendar will help you to focus on the progression of the Lenten season and is a neat reminder to see the days ticking away, getting closer and closer to Jesus’ resurrection. Lent is 40 days long and doesn’t include Sundays. It ends the Friday before Easter (the last day being Holy Thursday); count backwards from there. Hang the calendar in a common area in your home. Every day, tick off a box. As you get closer and closer to Easter, how do you find yourself feeling? Are your sacrifices becoming more or less difficult to maintain? Read more on Family Lent Calendar.

13. Have a weekly sacrifice meal

In addition to fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, have a “sacrifice meal” once each week. A simple bowl of rice and glass of milk instead of your family’s traditional spread. Limiting yourself to this will remind you of what’s normal for you — highlighting that it isn’t normal for others. The things we so easily forget! Again, only partake in diet restrictions if it’s advisable for you. If you’re not sure, it’s wise to consult a doctor beforehand. Jesus doesn’t want you sacrificing your health!

14. Burn palms from last year’s Palm Sunday

At the start of Lent, Ash Wednesday, burn the palms you have from last year’s Palm Sunday. Keep them in a bowl at your dining room table (or wherever they could serve as a reminder) to reflect on Jesus’ life and death. As you eat each meal, you’ll feel a natural urge of gratitude for the splendor that you have.

February 21st, 2014

What Lent Means To Me

What Lent Means To Me

As with most things in life, lent is probably something you learned about from your parents. From birth we are brought up to think of lent as a time where we sacrifice something important to us in praise of Jesus, but I believe that lent is much more than that. I feel that we can sum up lent in the three simple words giving, reflecting and acting. But these three words mean a much greater deal than just giving up your favourite chocolate until Easter.

What Lent means to others?

As this special time draws nearer we began to wonder what lent means to others, and in particular young people. Obviously lent is a time of self-sacrifice, but is that really all it is? And do we merely follow on what our parents have told us or do we ever stop to consider what lent really means to us as individuals? To answer these questions, we asked a number of the pupils at Our Lady and St. Patrick’s High School in Dumbarton, UK for their thoughts, and here are their answers.

“To me, lent is a time for helping others,” said one sixth year student. “It’s a time when I think about the lives of others in comparison to my own and I feel that during lent it is even more important that we help other people.” Support can go a long way, and even something as small as putting money in your WEE BOX can make a difference. A first year pupil answered that to them lent is a time during which we remember what it means to be a Christian, and strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.

“Lent is a time for spreading the word of God and for doing good, whether that be by buying a goat for an Indian family, or organising a Burns’ Supper for the elderly through your school SSVP group”. Lent was also described by a young person as “prayer and fasting” – it is a time for asking God to help those who need it and remembering that others are less fortunate than us by giving up something important to us.

Lent is much more than what we are taught

As children we’re taught about the story of lent and why we sacrifice something as Jesus did, but it seems that as we grow older lent becomes much more than that. We learn that other people need our help, our support and our prayer. We realise that giving something up is great, but taking action is even better. Fundamentally, we learn what it means to be a Christian, and it seems that the young people of today do indeed realise that.

We all remember what our parents taught us when we were younger, but as we mature we have the drive to go deeper than the surface ‘this is what we do for lent’ mantra and really consider what this time means to us. So go on, this Lent remember your Christian duties and lend a hand. It doesn’t take much thought to put some spare change in your WEE BOX, and those few coins could mean much more to someone else than you’d ever imagine. Have a blessed lenten season.

Read more on Lent

Preparing For Lent

Family Lent Calendar

What To Give Up For Lent

Lent and The Path To Freedom

Why did we start observing Lent?

March 4th, 2012

Lent and The Path To Freedom

Lent and the Path to Freedom

Doing Battle with the World, the Flesh and the Devil. God does not need Lent, we do.

When I was a young man I had a priest friend who I now recall every time we begin the Forty Day Observance of Lent. About a week before Ash Wednesday he would say, “I am looking forward to Lent.” The comment would perplex me greatly. Now I understand.

Jesus being tempted in the Desert

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.” (Luke 4:1) “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.” (Gaudium et Spes, # 22, Second Vatican Council)

When I was a young man in College I had a priest friend who I now recall every time we begin the Forty Day Observance of Lent. About a week before Ash Wednesday he would say, “I am looking forward to Lent.” The comment would perplex me greatly. In fact, I was dreading Lent, thinking it to be an onerous time with a lot of external practices which I did not really understand.

In my 20-year-old mind, mistakenly thinking as most 20 year olds do that I knew everything, I would dismiss the comment from my priest friend as some sort of “weird piety.” Now, decades later, I find myself joined with my old friend, seeing the wisdom of his well-formed piety. I welcome this remedial season of grace in my life. Now that it has come, I pray that I can enter into its invitation and find the path to Freedom. God does not need Lent, we do.

This ancient practice of setting aside 40 days in order to enter – in Jesus – into the desert places in our own daily lives and confront the temptations and struggles we face is a gift. It comes from the Lord and is offered through the Church who is our mother. The Church as mother and teacher knows just what we need. We all know the truth and need to be honest, particularly so during Lent as we examine our lives in the light of the call to repentance. We all struggle with disordered appetites and unconverted ways of thinking and living.

We also demonstrate in our daily lives a lack of charity in our relationships with others. We have developed unhealthy habits which cause us untold sadness and impede our progress in virtue. None of these set us free or help us to flourish as human persons. They are the bad fruit of sin. The Desert of Lent is where we learn to conquer in the One who both shows us the Way and is Himself the Way.

Lent is a Gift

Lent is a gift given to us by the Lord, but we have to unwrap it and apply its remedial and healing prescriptions. The Lord in whom we now live through Baptism, is Risen from the Dead. He is walking through time now, in his Body, the Church. He wants to save us and set us free as we live our lives in that new world which is the seed of the Kingdom to come. However, as another priest friend of recent acquaintance regularly reminds his parish, “Lent won´t work unless you work it!”

Lent invites us to journey in Jesus, into the Desert. It is there, in that pace of struggle, the field of engagement, where we can learn the root causes of our challenges and be equipped with the weapons of our warfare to fight what the Scriptures and Tradition refer to as the “world, the flesh and the devil.” The “world” in this meaning is NOT referring to the created order. Creation is good and given to us as a gift. Rather, the “world” refers to the system which has squeezed the primacy of the Creator out of daily life. When we succumb to its seduction we give ourselves over to the idolatry of self.

The “flesh” is not our body – which God fashioned and which will be raised from the dead, made glorious by the Resurrection. Remember, the Word became flesh and was raised BODILY from the grave. Jesus was the “first fruits” and we too will be raised in Him. Rather, the “flesh” refers to the disordered appetites which are one of the bad effects of sin at work within us.

The “devil” is not some figment of our imagination, but a malevolent fallen angel who, just as He tempted our first parents and tempted the Lord, now tempts us. These 40 Days of Lent are a classroom in which we learn to conquer the “world the flesh and the devil” so as to live differently, beginning now.

The Author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds us, “we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) Jesus, the Word made flesh is our Model. The temptations He engages in the desert are the prototype of all of the challenges we face as we respond to the continuing call to conversion. After all, the Christian vocation is just that – a continuing call to conversion. We respond to the Lord´s invitation.

Temptations Jesus faced

The first temptation Jesus faced was to His identity. After all, he IS the Son of God! We, through our Baptism, have also now become Sons (and daughters) of the Father in Him. The next temptation was to idolatry. We regularly commit the horrid sin of idolatry, succumbing to its lies almost on a daily basis.

Like the Christians in ancient Rome, we live in an age which has “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, worshipping created things rather than the Creator. (Rom. 1:25) Finally, there was the subtle but deadly temptation to violate integrity, to use the gifts and power of God improperly and put the Lord to the test. How clearly this poisonous serpent lurks in our daily life!

In each of these encounters with the Tempter, Jesus shows us the method by confronting the lies of the truth of God´s Word. He is the Living Word, and we, through our Baptism, now live our lives in Him.That is why I say we enter the desert IN Him. We do this by living within the communion of the Church which is His Risen Body on earth. The Church is not some-thing but Some – One.

There in the Church, living in the Lord, we find the resources we need to grow in holiness and struggle against the lingering effects of sin. There we embark on the journey of holiness, becoming what the Scriptures call “perfected´ or completed in Jesus Christ. His Divine Life (Grace) is mediated to us through the Sacraments, in the Living word and the communion of love in which we now live.

We are invited during these 40 days to take every gift, every grace, offered to us. We are invited to learn to wield the weapons of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. By these practices we grow in freedom by putting away the “old man/woman” and putting on the “new man/woman”, created anew in Jesus. It is Jesus in his Sacred Humanity who fully reveals that new man. He is the model, showing us the method. However, in His Divinity He is Himself the Means. In Him we are redeemed. We are also capacitated to grow in holiness and virtue by overcoming temptation. Through His Saving Life, Death and Resurrection, he makes it possible for us to live new lives, in Him – beginning now and leading into eternity.

Too often we forget that sin is a wrong choice, an “abuse of freedom” (See, Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1731- 1739, 386 – 402). We were created in the Image of God and at the very core; the heart of that Image is the capacity to freely choose to respond to his loving invitation to communion with Him.

From the first sin, the original sin, onwards, every sin is an abuse of that freedom and leads us into slavery. However, as the Apostle Paul reminds the Galatians, “It was for freedom that Christ sets us free”! (Gal. 5:1) Our freedom has been fractured and the Cross is the splint which, when applied in our daily lives, restores our capacity to live freely!

Going into the Desert of Lent

In his homily on Ash Wednesday in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI sketched for the faithful the portrait of this Holy Season as he reflected on the 40 Days that Jesus spent in the desert on our behalf: “That long time of silence and fasting for him was a complete abandonment to the Father and to His plan of love. Going into the desert meant voluntarily exposing himself to the enemy’s attacks, to temptation.entering into battle with him on the open field, defying him without any weapon other than his infinite trust in the Father’s omnipotent love.

“Adam was expelled from the earthly paradise, the symbol of communion with God…. Now, in order to return to that communion and thus to eternal life we must pass through the desert, the test of faith. Not alone but with Jesus who proceeds us and who has already conquered in the fight against the spirit of evil. This is the meaning of Lent, the liturgical time that, each year, invites us to renew our decision to follow Christ on the path of humility in order to participate in his victory over sin and death”.

Let us choose to enter into the desert, in Jesus. Let us welcome Lent by embracing its way of voluntary sacrifice, of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Lent is a path to Freedom.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Prayer Intentions For February 2012

General Intention: Access to Water
That all people may have access to water and other resources needed for daily life.
Missionary Intention: Health Workers
That the Lord may sustain the efforts of health workers assisting the sick and elderly in the world’s poorest regions.

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