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Here’s how to reboot your Lent

FAMILY PRAYING

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Leigh Fitzpatrick Snead - published on 03/04/18

There's still plenty of time to make this season fruitful so Easter will be that much more joyful!

Lent is here and like every year, I’m trying to do it right and be prepared for Easter this time, instead of feeling like I let the liturgical season slip through my fingers and I’m no better off spiritually than I was on Fat Tuesday. It’s easy for me to get caught up inside my own head, questioning my motives for Lenten sacrifices and observances. “Isn’t this something I should always be doing (or not doing), instead of just during Lent?” Or, “Is it bad to hope I’ll lose a couple of pounds and my skin and sleep will improve by skipping that nightly glass of wine I enjoy?” The Wall Street Journal even captured this Lenten motivational quandary in a recent article.

For me, the only way through this endless self-scrutiny is to get out of my head and take action.  

So this year I’m trying a new tactic and creating a retreat-like space in my mind, heart, and daily schedule. It’s unlike an actual retreat because you don’t go anywhere and you still have to do all of your daily work, housekeeping and child-rearing tasks. So, okay, it’s not a retreat at all, I get it. But think of it more as a retreat blanket that cloaks your daily grind with constant reminders and opportunities for  prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Here are some simple and practical strategies I’m trying this year to help me follow through with my Lenten promises.

Go bare

No, not like that. Think of churches that go flower-free during Lent and adjust your home’s décor. Replace flowers with simple things like bare branches, or maybe leave vases out but empty. Or temporarily store the regular adornments and sparkly things you enjoy. This will serve as a constant reminder of the season and also add meaning to bringing them back out at Easter.

Use those sticky notes

Tape a note on the mirror above the sink with a prayer or Scripture verse you’ve chosen or the names of those for whom you intend to pray. Instead of fretting over your to-do list or staring at the clock beating yourself up for running late, again, use those few minutes of brushing your teeth, washing your face, and brushing your hair for prayer. 

Keep Friday meals simple

Plan a meatless meal you’ll eat every single Friday during Lent. Make it something simple with ingredients you’re likely to have on hand. Don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. Eliminate time spent searching for new meatless recipes and shopping for special ingredients. For my family, it’s a simple risotto. The repetition is a nice reminder that it’s not just any other Friday.




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Plan extra visits to church around errands

Everyone’s busy. It’s one of those badges of honor we all wear now, along with being sleep deprived. Making time for additional religious observances during Lent is hard, but that’s part of it, right? We’re human, we’re weak. So know yourself, and work with it. While you might put off going to adoration if it’s pouring rain, you probably wouldn’t put off buying milk or diapers, or dropping off your rent check. So, get on the web and search sites like therealpresence.org and masstimes.org.  Schedule your appointments and errands around times for Eucharistic adoration, confession, or daily Mass, or go the other way and find a church close to where you’ll be for your other commitments.   

Stop the mindless phone checks

Speaking of the web, I’m trying to limit my screen time and it’s very common to see fellow Catholics posting a “Gone for Lent” sticker on social media. Checking our phones for notifications is a wide-spread habit these days and an automatic reflex when we see others doing it. The only way I’ve found I can defeat the mindless checking is taking the tempting apps off of my phone. This year, however, I’ve gone one step further and downloaded some Catholic apps I learned of here. I have found them to be a very nice and helpful addition to my Lenten practices.

Get the kids involved

Decide as a family which things you will give up and which observances you’ll keep during Lent — kids are excellent walking, talking memo pads, and they have a natural love for rituals like nightly rosaries or Friday Stations of the Cross. They tend not to let adults get away with much, especially not following through on promises. The black and white thinking of a little mind can be especially helpful with Lenten sacrifices. Also, we want to be a good example for children and show them through our actions that this season of sacrifice is not optional. 

Dedicate those extra minutes to your Lenten reading

If you’ve chosen some spiritual reading for Lent but are finding days at a time when you haven’t read a page, you’re not alone. Why not listen to the audiobook version in the car? Or, if you can, choose a small book that can be tucked into your purse, or go digital and read it on your tablet or phone. So what if it’s only two minutes while you’re on hold with the dentist’s office or waiting in the supermarket checkout line? My grandfather-in-law always said “pennies make dollars.” In this case, minutes make hours. Read when you can and don’t let perfectionism lead you to not read at all.

Be intentional

Lastly, and most important for me, is to be intentional. In general, my favorite way to approach most things is to wing it — and by favorite I don’t mean best or most successful. Winging it does not a good Lent make. So be intentional and specific with your Lenten intentions. Write them down in a journal or into your diary or calendar. Use some of these suggestions or brainstorm some of your own that work for your life and overcome — or even redirect — your weaknesses so that you arrive at the end of these 40 days prepared for Easter.


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