What should I do for Lent? It’s the big question we ask ourselves every year. Begin by asking these questions:
What habits do I have that get in the way of a healthy spiritual life?
What distracts me from living a deeper interior life?
Where do I lack balance?
What takes an inordinate amount of time out of my life?
What am I overly attached to?
An answer to these questions might be a good indication of what to do to live Lent well. Here are some other ideas for how to live Lent and carry the Cross with Our Lord more deliberately and generously. Creativity is good but be honest with yourself and ask the question: “will this sacrifice help me love God more, forget myself more and love my neighbor better?”
Take one of the Stations of the Cross daily and meditate on it. Here are some good resources to use:
30 minutes in Eucharistic Adoration weekly
Say the Rosary daily: http://ow.ly/uec7q
Make a daily visit to the Blessed Sacrament in the nearest church.
Make a weekly confession
Learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and choose an hour a day to pray.
Do 15 minutes of Spiritual Reading a day. Some good books for Lent are:
The Soul of the Apostolate: http://ow.ly/uel7J
The Life of Christ: http://ow.ly/ueljE
Letters to a Young Catholic: http://ow.ly/uelr3
Interior Freedom: http://ow.ly/uelxJ
Searching for and Maintaining Peace: http://ow.ly/uelGT
Christ is Passing: http://ow.ly/uelNV
Confessions of St. Augustine: http://ow.ly/uelVS
In Silence with God: http://ow.ly/uem9y
Introduction to the Devout Life: http://ow.ly/uemi7
Dark Night of the Soul: http://ow.ly/uemtF
The Spirit of the Liturgy: http://ow.ly/uemBI
Pray a family rosary with your family or housemates.
Pray a particular prayer for the Holy Father each day
Pray a Memorare for the Evangelization of your parish each day.
Pray for your enemies and those you dislike each day.
Read the life of a saint each day.
Listen to a homily, podcast or reflection in the car while driving (rather than news and music)
Do Lectio Divina every day. (See blog post)
Do mental prayer (conversation with God) using a prayer journal daily.
Pray the Angelus at noon daily.
Now there are many that give up things like chocolate, candy and drinking and that’s all well and good but perhaps the real question to ask yourself is: “how much of that do I actually eat or drink?” If giving up drinking alcohol or eating chocolate is that challenging to do for 40 days perhaps there are some deeper questions that need to be addressed. If so, that would be a truly amazing challenge to face. If not, then what would really be a sacrifice? What would really help you keep the presence of God in your day by sacrificing that thing? Many also commit to give up sinful acts and habits. That’s awesome of course, but do so by doing even more to sacrifice yourself. Here are some ideas:
Giving up TV for all of Lent
No Netflix or iTunes
Give up one small thing at every meal (veggies don’t count)
Give up coffee (ouch)
Give up watching sports
No radio in the car or commute
Disconnect from Facebook and social media
Drive in silence
Stop multitasking and do one thing at a time and offer it for an intention.
For those that do not exercise: Exercise daily.
Walk slower- be present in the moment and allow that moment to be given to God.
Give up a comfort you have at home (keeping the heat a little lower than usual, etc)
Commit to having an accountability partner if you have an internet or pornography addiction.
Quit or heavily reduce smoking if you are a smoker.
Give up using foul language (helps keep the presence of God mindful for sure).
Cook dinner instead of going out.
Deny one of your senses on a different day of the week:
Hearing: no music, putting the phone on do not disturb more often.
Seeing: stop checking the computer and phone for info constantly
Touch: take a lukewarm shower, not using the most comfortable clothes or blankets, etc.
Smell: dealing with those uncomfortable scents of life without complaint or whining about it.
Taste: giving up sugar, salt, a favorite condiment, fasting from a meal for the sake of a friends’ conversion, junk food, etc.
Any concrete way of reducing technology’s hold on your life.
Almsgiving: Serve others, give to others, focus on others. It’s that simple- live for others.
Talk to that person that annoys you with joy.
Joyfully put up with the idiosyncrasies and faults of your roommates, coworkers or friends without any complaining.
Give some extra time to organize the office, apartment or home without looking for accolades or repayment.
Increase the amount of money you give every week to the parish
Increase the amount of money, service or goods you give to the poor.
Write a letter to family members and old friends daily.
Visit the elderly- especially those in your neighborhood or apartment.
Go through the house and minimalize your life. We need very little.
Give something away everyday.
Volunteer to teach or tutor someone.
Read a story to your children a few nights a week.
Write a letter of thanks to people who have influenced your life the most.
Call relatives or people who you have neglected.
Ask your family members, roommates or friends about their day and really listen- no self referential comments.
Invite your friends to prayer
Invite friends to an event at the parish.
Invite a friend to come to confession with you and then go out afterwards for a treat.
Ask a friend that has trouble exercising to go workout with you. Make it enjoyable for them.
Clean up the kitchen after roommates without being asked.
Help a group in your parish fundraise.
Find out who is sick during the season and offer to help them, especially the chronically or terminally ill.
Visit yours or friends elderly relatives.
Offer to babysit for friends with kids so they can have a date night together.
Start a Bible study with your friends.
Tithe (giving 10% of your salary to the church as an act of trust in God and real self sacrifice).
Shovel snow or do errands for unhealthy or elderly neighbors.
Do a chore around the house without being asked.
Hone a skill that you have that could be used for the sake of others for free or offer your professional expertise pro bono to a charitable organization or your parish.
Help a young person start a part time business.
Patiently teach someone who is technologically challenged how to use the computer or the phone better and more efficiently.
Help a friend organize their house, garage, attic, life…
invite someone you know is lonely to coffee or dinner. Listen to them.
Go to the fringes- find those that need to hear the Gospel and speak to them about God.