WHAT IS LENT?
"Lent is a retreat that the Church gives us in order to re-focus on what should be first in our lives. The purpose of Jesus' life was to glorify the Father and save the world. ..Lent is not first a time of giving up but a time to re-choose to be the victim of Christ, the Lamb. It is a time to live the Beatitudes.” - Fr. Marie-Dominique Philippe, OP
Lent is a 40-day period of preparation for Easter Sunday and one of the major liturgical seasons of the Catholic Church. Signifying the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert after His baptism, it is a penitential season marked by prayer, fasting and abstinence, and almsgiving.
Lent is not necessarily about “giving something up” for 40 days only to return to it on day 41 or afterward, but is a period of ongoing conversion so that we may draw closer to Jesus. When we repent for our sins and then make a permanent--rather than temporary--change in our lifestyle, a spiritual transformation can take place. At the heart of repentance lies the call to conversion. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15)!
WHEN IS LENT THIS YEAR?
Starting on Ash Wednesday (February 18 this year), the Lenten season includes forty weekdays and five Sundays before holy week and the triumph of the Resurrection at Easter (which is celebrated on
Sunday April 5, 2015).
LENTEN IDEAS FOR ADULTS
Attend Mass one extra day during the week.
Pray the Angelus at the traditional times of 6 am, noon, and 6 pm or anytime.
Read the Lenten Scripture readings daily and mediate on them (Lectio Divina free Lenten guide for 2015).
Participate in Ash Wednesday services.
Participate in the Stations of the Cross.
Participate in Lenten Liturgies in your parish or diocese.
Frequent the sacrament of Reconciliation.
Increase the amount of time you spend in prayer during Eucharistic Adoration or before the Blessed Sacrament.
Pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily.
Increase the amount of time you spend praying for others by fifteen minutes each day.
Add the Rosary or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to your daily prayers.
Develop family devotion time where you pray as a family together daily.
Pray the Operation Rice Bowl prayer at every meal.
Participate in a 40 hours devotion (if available in your diocese).
Spend time in prayer at the local abortion clinic or if you are unable to be physically present, offer up prayers and sacrifices for the unborn, the mothers, and the families who are there, as well as for the conversion of those working at the abortion mill.
Fasting and Abstinence
In addition to the required fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstaining from meat on all Fridays during Lent, consider the following activities.
Abstain from watching TV one night a week so that you can spend time on a Lenten practice, such as praying, reading the Bible, and serving others.
Abstain from watching one movie during Lent and give the money and the time on service to others.
Abstain from candy, alcohol, pop, cigarettes, coffee, etc. Give the money saved to Rice Bowl or another organization to feed the hungry.
Abstain from using foul language and put-downs and begin affirming others with positive speech; use your speech to encourage, rather than discourage others.
Abstain from purchasing new things like clothing, music, and magazines; instead make a donation to a charitable cause.
Abstain from holding resentments and learn to practice forgiveness.
Abstain from gossiping and dishonesty and begin the practice of honesty and truthfulness.
Abstain from being angry or upset with people who have hurt or offended you and pray for the courage to forgive them.
Abstain from feeling guilty or angry with yourself; instead, remember God’s great love for you.
Fast (and pray) for the de-funding of Planned Parenthood and for an end to the culture of death.
Fast (and pray) for religious freedom.
Donate personal possessions such as clothing, books, shoes, to people in need.
Dedicate time for service during Lent, e.g., working at a soup kitchen, a homeless shelter.
Donate money saved by fasting to the parish or community food pantry, food bank, homeless shelter, or crisis pregnancy center.
Volunteer at your parish school.
Offer to help clean your parish church or to prepare a meal for your pastor.
Increase your participation in parish organizations, e.g., Knights of Columbus, PTO, etc.).
Recommit to stewardship and the practice of tithing.
Volunteer at a local food shelter, homeless shelter or a nursing home several hours per week.
Volunteer at your local crisis pregnancy center (requires training first).
Volunteer to read books and magazines to the elderly or for the blind.
Help others learn to read by becoming a literacy trainer or volunteer to tutor children.
Train to be a hospice volunteer or support the work of the Hospice movement.
Give the gift of sight by donating old eyeglasses or unused frames to the local Lion’s Club who recycle them and distribute to the needy.
Donate diapers, formula, baby clothing, baby furniture, and maternity clothing to a local crisis
pregnancy center. If you knit or crochet, make booties or baby blankets and donate them to the local crisis pregnancy center.
Consider making an anonymous donation to the poor and needy.
LENTEN IDEAS FOR CHILDREN
Fasting and Abstinence
Give up one TV show or the radio or music for 30 minutes and spend that time helping a family member.
Give up something you enjoy doing today (like dessert or snacks) and spend 10 minutes praying for the needs of others.
Give up something you enjoy today (like dessert or snacks) and donate 25 cents to your Operation Rice Bowl box.
Give up buying something new (clothes, CD, magazine, jewelry) and donate 50 cents to your Operation Rice Bowl box.
Give up going to a movie or other fun activity and donate the money from this activity to your Operation Rice Bowl box or other people in need in your community.
Think about a bad habit you would like to change, like telling a lie, yelling at others, getting angry, putting people down, and choose to avoid that habit and do something positive instead.
Think about how often you fail to listen to your parents when they ask you do something. Resolve to listen to them and to obey them the first time they ask you to do something rather than making them remind you to do it again.
Think about someone you are angry with or who has hurt you. Ask God to give you the courage to forgive and pray for that person each day. Think about at least one thing that is good about them and remember that God loves them and wants you to do the same. Picture them with Jesus.
Share lots of smiles today.
Give a hug to everyone in your family.
Complement each person in your family today.
Give up complaining, frowns, and negative thoughts today.
Give up one toy or game during Lent.
Pray the Our Father three times today -- in the morning when you get up, at noontime, and at bedtime.
Pray the Angelus with your family or by yourself three times today -- in the morning, at noon, and at suppertime.
Pray the family Rosary or at least one decade with your family daily.
Say a prayer for someone who is sick today.
Pray for a forgiving heart and ask the people you have hurt to forgive you.
Participate in the Stations of the Cross during Lent.
Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent.
List three blessings you have been given.
Say a prayer to God, giving thanks for each of those blessings.
Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament and pray for those who are homeless.
Think about ways you and your family might be able to help them.
Go through your closet and donate clothing you no longer wear, but are in good shape, to those in your community who are in need of clothing.
Show an act of kindness to a family member today.
Show an act of kindness to someone you don't like.
Do someone else's chores one day this week.
Ask your mom or dad how you can help them.
Write a letter or create a card for someone who is sick or lonely and deliver it to them.
Buy a can of food and donate to a food bank or a homeless shelter.
Save your money and buy some baby wipes to donate to a crisis pregnancy center.
If you earn an allowance, save up your money and buy some diapers, baby bottles, or formula and donate it to a crisis pregnancy center. Together, with your family, spend time serving others during Lent.
Work at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
Visit elderly people who are in nursing homes or shut-ins. Talk with your family about eating one simple meal each week of Lent and putting the money you save in the Operation Rice Bowl box or giving the money to a crisis pregnancy center or to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
Offer to help out a family in your neighborhood or community who are dealing with job loss. Ask your parents if you can invite them to dinner or bring a covered dish to their house. Help your parents with the dinner or with making special invitations for the dinner.
~ copyright Jean M. Heimann 2015