Preparing for Lent

By: Nancy Belmont, Director of Faith Formation

Last year, one of my friends commented that we experienced “The Lentiest Lent Ever” due to pandemic closures and isolation measures. This year, we’re weary as we approach “The Lentiest Lent Ever, Part II.” 

Anticipating an ascetic season of sacrifice and self-giving can be intimidating because over the last year, we have largely been unable to feast and we are depleted. However, Lent affords us an opportunity to count our blessings, double down on our prayer life, and remember the poorest among us. 

“Lent” means spring, and it can inspire a new springtime for our spiritual lives if we are open to its transformative power. 

What follows are some ways to renew your own spiritual life, the spiritual life of your family, and the spiritual life of your CWOC and/or chapel community by focusing on the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 

Prayer

Individual — Add a new devotion to your prayer repertoire. Learn about the First Fridays and First Saturdays devotion, Stations of the Cross, or Divine Mercy devotions on our MCCW website. Or, consider attending daily Mass one day during the week to pray for those who cannot worship in-person due to the pandemic restrictions or ill health. 

Family — Did your family gather around the Advent wreath during that reflective season? Create a Lenten devotional space by making a candle cross display and placing it in your family prayer space or on your dining table. Each night, light the appropriate candles and pray together.

Chapel Group/Parish — How is your CWOC or chapel praying together this Lent? If there is a plan for weekly in-person Stations of the Cross, ask whether your CWOC can volunteer to coordinate the Stations one week, or every week. If there is no in-person plan due to COVID, ask different CWOC members to host virtual Stations each week, broadcasting the prayer via Facebook live to the chapel or CWOC’s Facebook group.

Fasting

Individual —

Why not fast from the snooze bar this Lent? St. Josemaria Escrivá advocated for this “heroic minute” in his book The Way:

Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself in that moment, you’ll have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish!

This might seem like an easy fast at first, but you might be surprised at the challenge of rising promptly during the cold, dark mornings of early Lent. Use the extra five or ten minutes in your day to sit quietly in the presence of God. 

Family —

Challenge your children to think beyond giving up candy for Lent by making a crown of thorns out of clay or a willow wreath and adding toothpicks. Each time someone in your family makes a sacrifice (not eating dessert, praying for another person, bearing wrongs patiently), he or she takes out a toothpick from the crown of thorns in an effort to ease the suffering of Christ. The goal for your family is to remove every toothpick by Easter, and the crown can be transformed into a ring of flowers or a golden crown of glory. 

Chapel Group/Parish —

Support one another in your fasting. In Mark chapter 9, the disciples were shaken when they encountered a demon they were unable to cast out. In verse 28 of the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible, Jesus explained to them, “This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” Fasting is powerful, and it amplifies the power of our prayers. It teaches us that we can overcome our base desires and rely on God for true power and strength. However, fasting can be difficult. We need a community to bolster us. Establish fasting accountability partners in your chapel group. Pair up women who will pray and fast together. They can share ideas about the items (or attitudes) from which they will fast during Lent. Weekly (or daily) they can check-in via email, Messenger, text, or in-person to see how their partner’s fast is going, offer support when their partner stumbles, and encourage their sister to grow in virtue. 

Almsgiving

Individual —

Over the last year, I’ve become more attached to Amazon Prime to do my household shopping. Sometimes, it saves me an in-person trip to the store for essentials, but other times, I shop when I am bored or stressed. Consider limiting or eliminating frivolous online purchases this Lent. Instead, get your shopping fix by fulfilling the Amazon wishlists of your local pregnancy center, mother’s home, or Catholic school. If you have an item on your personal shopping list that is truly essential, consider if you can forego “super saver shipping” in order to get an online credit. Use that credit towards a spiritual Kindle book or a family movie rental for a Sunday night (remember, each Sunday is like a “little Easter.”)

Family —

Give with a goal in mind! Charities like Food for the Poor publish gift catalogs that illustrate how much money it costs to buy a cow for a family or provide school supplies for a child. Look over one such catalog with your children and give with a specific goal in mind. Perhaps you could even hold a yard sale to raise even more funds towards your goal. 

Chapel Group/Parish —

Build bridges with the local community and support those struggling during this time by getting involved with your local food pantry. Eighty percent of food banks say they are serving more people today than they were one year ago. Ask your pastor if you can collect food items during the offertory at Mass. Not meeting in person? Some food pantries have drop-off bins where you can donate items. Ask which items they need most and offer to help organize and distribute food items. 

Lent shouldn’t be a dour time, but a hopeful period when we commit to open ourselves to the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. By embracing the opportunity of the season and making a plan, we can become beacons of hope and inspiration for our families and communities.