I am teaming up with my dear friend Tiffany for a 7 in 7 Days blitz hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler of Conversion Diary. We have been talking of a collaboration for a while and this seemed to be the right time and the right fit. In the first 7 in 7 (as we lovingly refer to it) I met Tiffany so it's only fitting to collaborate this time around. For the next seven days, we will take turns at the main stage, and the other will share a reflection. We wanted to share a "Lenten power packet" of all things Lent. We will discuss the basic's of Lent, resources, funny anecdotes, perspectives and family helps for little ones. Think of us as Lenten Super Friends complete with interlocking rings. Let's get started!
What is Lent?
This year, Lent begins on March 5, 2014 with Ash Wednesday. Lent comes directly after a very popular and indulgent festival – known as Mardi Gras. After all of the beads are thrown, alcohol consumed and King Cake eaten, we awake the next morning to the start of Lent, with Ash Wednesday. For the next 40 days, we, undergo a season of prayer, fasting, abstinence and penance. The first Gospel reading in Lent is Matthew 4: 1-11 of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. This reading offers us an opportunity to reflect on where we are in our prayer life and gives us the time in our spiritual desert to come to Him and lean into Him as we endure the remembrance of these 40 days with Him.
Prayer During the 40 days we will be preparing our souls for the wonderful resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter. At the beginning of Lent, we are called to Him, but we aren’t ready. Prayer can simply be waking up in the morning and saying to yourself, “I give this day to you, God”. Or heading over to the USCCB site and reading the daily readings. Now is the time to start thinking of ways to incorporate new patterns of prayer into your daily life – with the hope that they stick well after Lent and Easter.
Fasting We are only required to fast two days out of the year, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This means we eat one full meal of our choosing, and then two smaller meals that do not equal the heft of the full meal. Make sense? So, for example, I will have fish for dinner with some steamed veggies, but a slice of toast for breakfast and a hard-boiled egg for lunch.
The hunger in your belly throughout the day is nothing compared to the sufferings of Jesus. When my stomach rumbles, I take that as an internal sign to pray – because it’s my soul that’s hungry for Him too.
We can always fast as necessary to our personal prayer and reflection journey dictates, but these two days are fixed and must be adhered to.
Almsgiving This can be as simple as donating more money to your parish, but looking deeper, couldn't we give of our time too say at a local soup kitchen? Consider this from the Catholic Education Resource Center:
Why is almsgiving better than prayer and fasting? Because it is prayer, and it involves fasting. Almsgiving is a form of prayer because it is "giving to God" — and not mere philanthropy. It is a form of fasting because it demands sacrificial giving — not just giving something, but giving up something, giving till it hurts.
Abstinence We are required to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. However, this brings us to what you commonly hear around this season – what are you going to give up? What are you going to disconnect yourself from for 40 days as an offering to God? Some people give up alcohol, others television or shopping, still others swearing. I invite you take it a step further and think about what you could add as well? Think of something that you’ve always wanted to include in your spiritual life such as waking up early to pray, or go to an extra mass during the week.
Penance In January, we are all looking for how to kick off the new year right, mostly from a physical standpoint. Lent gives us the opportunity to look within and get our souls right. Plan to take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconcilliation. In fact, most parishes, if not all, increase their confession times to meet the soul cleansing demand. To really be penitential, we have to be repentant and avoid the near occasion of that particular sin. This is the hard part. We can be sorry – but it is how we go about avoiding it, avoiding that temptation in the desert of our souls, that makes it truly Lenten!
Much like its Advent mirror, this is preparation, only this time for the Resurrection (and not the birth). Preparation takes work, diligence and you may drop the ball. That’s totally fine. Pick your cross back up and keep going.
My advice overall, is to be easy on yourself. Lent isn’t supposed to be fun per se, that’s what Easter is for. Take things a little easier, lessen what’s on your plate, if you can (little fasting reference there). Think of it like a detox. They always suggest rest and drinking lots of water to remove impurities. Same thing here – just add Holy Water!!
I’ve mentioned Ash Wednesday here a few times, and didn’t go into great detail here because Tiffany will be giving you a Catholic Nook style take on it, like only she can. Don’t know what a Catholic Nook looks like? Here’s her last one so you know what to expect!
This post of course isn't exhaustive. I meant to only scratch the surface as this post will kick off a week long blitz of Lenten preparation posts.
I’m writing seven posts in seven days this week. To check out other bloggers who are doing the same, see the list here.