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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?