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Making the Most of Lent as a New or Returning Catholic

Making the Most of Lent as a New or Returning Catholic via @ACatholicNewbie

Joining the Church this Easter or just going through your first Lent as a Catholic? Or maybe you’re getting serious about your faith again after many years away. Congratulations on all counts! Lent is the perfect time to dive in and really get to know your faith and to begin to root out any unholiness that has crept into your life.

As a now 3-year Catholic veteran of Lent, here are my tips to maximize this penitential season as a newcomer:

  1. What to give up? Probably the first thing you associate with Lent is giving something up. We do this for many reasons including reminding ourselves that we are more than just a body and need not be slaves to its every earthly whim. It helps develop self-control, and also, dare we say, creates some discomfort, and we can offer that up in union with Christ’s suffering to have redemptive benefits (to help others in some way). MY favorite reason to give up something is to begin to change bad habits that lead to sin — or are sinful. Look for something in your life you’ve gotten too attached to, that creates a habitual pleasure, pride or reveals an attachment to money. Start rooting that out by giving it up for Lent. Here’s a quiz that can also help you decide what to give up.
  2. Remember to add something – Lest we get all focused on the bad, let’s remember to add something holy to our lives this Lent. Can you spend 15 minutes in quiet daily, pray the rosary every day, attend daily mass once a week, go to confession more than once, finish a Catholic book, do an act of mercy weekly, read the Church’s daily Bible verses?
  3. Surviving the fast – Yes, as a Catholic, you are now required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (that means one regular meal and two small meals that add up to no more than one regular meal) and abstain from meat each Friday during Lent. This is a tough one, as we don’t like to be hungry (see my blog on the benefits of fasting)! The Lenten Mercy Challenge, created by MyConsecration.org (which promotes Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary) is offering help by asking you to simply fast on bread and water for lunch each Lenten Friday, along with praying just one decade of the rosary for a special intention. They hope all of us doing this in solidarity will help cause God’s Divine Mercy to be poured out on the world, which is so in need of it! Get help being accountable for your prayer and fasting in their Facebook group. You can also watch my story of how prayer paired with fasting brought about a blessing in my life.
  4. Take advantage of your parish offerings – Lent has brought about many blessings in my life and it was because I put myself out there and attended services and events offered at my parish. For example, a wonderful Lenten speaker, Hector Molina, greatly inspired me last year and helped me break the ice in getting to know my fellow parishioners. I love going to Stations of the Cross on Fridays, our parish’s fish fries, all the services during Holy Week and I take off Good Friday entirely to basically spend my day in worship and prayer. It will do wonders for you spiritually.
  5. Don’t overdo it – All that said, don’t overdo it or you will fail on your intentions and get discouraged. Focus on 1 thing to root out, 1 thing to add, make sure you’re fasting/abstaining, get thyself to confession at least once and attend what you can at your parish. Ok, that still sounds like a lot… 🙂 If you do mess up, don’t let that stop you from going further. Just get right back in the game. We all fail and sin and that’s why God provides us with His neverending mercy. He’s cheering you on to succeed!

What tips do you have for those new or coming back to Catholicism for Lent?

11 Ways to Work the Rosary into Your Busy Day

11 Ways to Work the Rosary into Your Busy Day via @ACatholicNewbie
To truly advance in growing into the saint God designed you to be, I highly encourage you to make praying the rosary daily a priority in your life. If you just don’t think you’ve got 20 minutes to sit down and ask for Mary’s prayers as you reflect on the life of her Son, let me find 20 minutes for you :). Keep in mind it doesn’t have to be a contiguous 20 minutes and you don’t have to carry a rosary with you. You have 10 fingers, right? That’s good enough.

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Here are 11 perfectly good ways you can pray the rosary TODAY even on the busiest of days!

1) In the shower – What else do you have to do in the shower? Praying is much better than letting your mind wander. Keep your eyes on the Lord! If you’re not done praying by the time you’re finished, continue while toweling off, getting dressed and even blow drying your hair.

2) While running – Do you go running regularly? Make praying the rosary your activity instead of listening to music. There are podcasts, such as on the free Laudate Catholic app, that you can listen to as you run.

3) In the car – It’s amazing how I can quickly pray the rosary just going to and from the grocery, while getting gas, taking the kids to school and more. A few car trips definitely add up to 20 minutes. I often use a free CD from CatholicCity, which I pray along with. It makes me feel like I’m praying with a group! It’s also a great way to learn to pray the rosary if it’s new to you (because it can be quite confusing to newbies). See other free Catholic resources.

4) While exercising – Try the wonderful SoulCore program that pairs core exercises with the rosary. Purchase the DVD and get two important things checked off your to-do list: fitness and prayer. This program has the approval of Lafayette, Ind., Diocese Bishop Timothy Doherty.

5) While cleaning – Pray away as you vacuum, fold the laundry, mop, dust, etc. And while you’re at it, you can bless those who will reap the benefits of your efforts of a clean home and wear those nicely-folded clean clothes.

6) Taking the dog for a walk – Do you walk your dog everyday? Make that your time for praying the rosary. Again, much better than letting the mind wander. Keep your mind focused and make it a fruitful time!

7) At lunch – Take a daily lunch break and sit quietly to pray the rosary. During warmer months, why not pray outside and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature that God has gifted us with?

8) Try a walking rosary (sans dog) – Once a week, consider praying a walking rosary. You hold the rosary in your hand and walk in rhythm to the prayer. Now, other people may see you doing this, so you have to be a brave and joyful witness. A priest in our parish used to do this in visible spots around town and it was incredibly powerful to see him walking and praying in the public eye.

9) As you fall asleep – I received this once as a penance after confession and what a joy it is to drift to sleep with thoughts of Jesus and Mary on your mind. The only downside to this one is you might fall asleep before you get through the entire rosary! Read Patti Armstrong’s post on what happened when she was too tired to pray the rosary. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I consider it a sign that someone needs prayers and so I’ll pray the rosary until I fall back asleep, offering it for whoever might need it.

10) At church – It’s so powerful to pray the rosary in the presence of Jesus or with others in your parish. Make a weekly date with Jesus to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in Adoration to pray the rosary. Or, if your parish has a practice of group prayer of the rosary, join in! Better yet, start your own rosary group!

11) While waiting – How many times do we wait in a day? Waiting in line at the grocery, at the doctor’s office, in the school pick-up line? Work in a decade each time you’re in line and you’ll be done by day’s end.

Any other suggestions for ways to work the rosary into your busy life?

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Join the Divine Mercy Novena

divine-mercy300One of my favorite free Catholic services, PrayMoreNovenas.com, is starting the Divine Mercy Novena leading up to the Canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII. It starts on Good Friday and will be a great way to finish Lent strong!

The way it works is that you simply sign up to receive a daily email during the novena with the prayer for the day and any special intentions. Of course, you can add your own intentions, as well.
I really enjoy it because it’s a daily reminder for me to pray the novena, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who starts one and then forgets one day in the middle and feels like I have to start all over :).
For more information or to sign up, visit their website. Hope you join me!

Lent is the Perfect Time to Embrace a Lifestyle of Giving

Almsgiving LentAs I hear Pope Francis exhort over and over how important it is as Catholics and Christians that we get out on the fringes of society and be with those who need help or a kind word or just human interaction, I see more and more how this is an area in which I am lacking. We are measured not just by what we do, but what we don’t do. Ignoring that person on the side of the road whose tire is blown may be just as much of a sin as actually speaking an unkind word.

But in  my mind I think how in the world am I going to add in time for such volunteer work? I’m already running a full-time (probably MORE than full time) business, serving as mom to two elementary-school age boys, trying to be a good wife to my husband and, of course, make time for mass (often daily), adoration, prayer, blog writing, a daily rosary… you get the idea :). How do I work in one more thing?

Well, I received a review copy of this wonderful book recently that provides a wonderful solution. In “I Like Giving,” author Brad Formsma suggests that instead of making giving a once a month, or one-off, task, change to a lifestyle of giving. And what I liked best of all about this book is that giving doesn’t need to be a big act of generosity that drains the funds of someone already struggling or takes up a day of your time, though it can, of course, if you choose. But rather, giving can be the smallest act of kindness that takes no more than a second but requires a spirit of generosity.

Catholic AlmsgivingOne of my favorite parts of the book is that it is filled with stories of giving from everyday individuals like you and I. These serve as a wonderful repository of ideas and inspiration for all manner of generosity — from buying a house for someone so they never have to worry about rent again to cleaning out someone’s car for them without ever mentioning it. I’ve already come up with several creative ideas to make someone’s day without them expecting it. What joy that gives me to see the joy in them!

Formsma also gives tips along the way about things like when someone rejects a gift, when someone squanders a gift, whether or not to give gifts anonymously, how to look for giving opportunities and more. He also shares stories and statistics on how giving has affected the lives of so many from increasing happiness to changing someone’s entire outlook on life.

Perhaps my favorite quote is from a story written by his then 8-year-old son, which I have shared with both of my boys. It tells the story of his decision to give the money he’d made shoveling 125 sidewalks of snow for a young girl to have cleft-palate surgery:

“It’s easier to live life trying not to see things. To think it’s all about you. But it’s not. There’s a whole world out there. You just have to open your eyes and see it. There are opportunities all the time, but you only get one life. Why not spend it making a difference in somebody else’s?”

I don’t think Pope Francis could have said it better himself :). Go to ILikeGiving.com for stories of giving and to start changing your lifestyle this Lent.

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