Don’t give up Lent for Lent

There are so many wonderful resources to help us observe a meaningful Lent beyond giving up chocolate. The important thing is to select one or a few that will lead us closer to Christ as we walk through the penitential season. With Ash Wednesday’s arrival this week, these days of grace have already begun.

During Lent, the church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. Pope Francis, in his Lenten message for the Year of Mercy, particularly hopes we consider practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

“In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited,” he wrote. “In the spiritual works of mercy — counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer — we touch more directly our own sinfulness.”

image006Has your household taken part in Catholic Relief Services’ Operation Rice Bowl in recent years? If not, this Year of Mercy would be a good time to renew that practice of collecting Lenten alms to help alleviate hunger and poverty. There’s even an app for that. Download it at crsricebowl.org.

Traditional observances of Lent include more frequent Mass attendance, the sacrament of reconciliation, spiritual reading.

This digital age affords many options to walk through Lent with some of the church’s best evangelists.  For example, Matthew Kelly’s organization, The Dynamic Catholic Institute, is promoting a “Best Lent Ever” program. Participants can receive a daily inspirational email with short videos from Kelly sharing simple ways to bring Jesus into everyday life. Likewise, Bishop Robert Barron — producer of the popular “Catholicism” video series — is offering to deliver daily Lenten reflections. Sign up at LentReflections.com.

The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, usccb.org, offers a host of ideas for observing Lent, among them a Lenten calendar called “40 Days of Mercy.”

In a column in the St. Louis Review, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson compared Lent to something baseball fans can relate to — spring training. He called Lent “spring training for our relationship with God.”

“The world these days is asking — more like demanding — that we ‘raise our game’ as followers of Jesus,” he wrote. “That means our Lenten discipline — our spring training — requires more than a last-minute decision about what to give up.”

Don’t give up Lent this Lent, especially with so many options. It offers us a special opportunity not to be missed. — Thomas J. Dermody

 

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