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Not sure how to “do Lent?” Here’s how some people observe the season


Justin Fatica | SrMarla Marie Lucas/Facebook | Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

John Burger - published on 03/06/20

Dawn Eden Goldstein, author of Sunday Will Never Be the Same

Ron Sartini | CC BY-SA 3.0

In addition to my personal Lenten penance, I am trying to better follow the Church’s advice to offer up daily inconveniences, slights, and so on.

Dr. Tom Catena, Physician at Mother of Mercy Hospital, Nuba Mountains, Sudan

Dr. Tom Catena
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Tom Catena

I find Lent to be a very humbling time. I see it more as a time to reflect how far off the mark I am in my spiritual walk. I often think of St. Francis, who saw the need for daily conversion.

I try (often unsuccessfully) to use this time to focus on the really difficult ones for me: namely, forgiveness and idle talk. I just try to stick with two themes.

Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup | Facebook | Fair Use

It is good to give things up for Lent, to deny ourselves, because we imitate Christ going into the desert.

Every year since I’ve been ordained, I always give up alcohol, and I do it with a specific intention. There’s the Pioneer Prayer that you can do for Lent, so what I do is I pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that my own fasting, abstaining from alcohol, will help undo some of the damage that alcohol does in the world — just because I see the damage it causes to so many people, especially here in my own diocese. Many of the Native American people struggle with alcohol.

Looking at my own prayer life, I get up every morning and make a holy hour. So during Lent, I try to find a time in the afternoon where I go and make another visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Even my holy hour in the morning, I try to make it more focused.

Concerning almsgiving, we’re in the poorest diocese of the United States, and this time of year we always have our development appeal. I try to recommit myself to that. I know it’s going to help and serve the poor. The Lord is always placing opportunities to serve the poor into our lives.

The other thing to do is try to look at a virtue to work on each year. So if I use those three things, what I try to do is say, “Okay, here’s a virtue that I’m struggling with.” Sometimes I’ll ask friends or family members — I’ll ask them to be honest, if there’s a virtue I need to work on. This year it’s patience. Over the last year or two I’ve noticed that I’m struggling with that virtue, which causes me to be short, which causes me to be uncharitable, especially with my tongue.

So I’m trying to assign those three things — prayer, fasting and almsgiving — so they help me grow in the virtue of patience, because if patience goes out the window, so does the most important virtue of all, which is charity.

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