I think I must be maturing in my spiritual life because I no longer dread the approach of Ash Wednesday. I am actually looking forward to having a reason to focus more on the passion and death of Jesus during this penitential church season. The challenge will be to come up with a good plan for the 40 days before Easter Sunday. One thing I know for sure is that I will not give up just one thing and then compensate for it by doing something else....for instance, giving up something specific like the computer, only to compensate by watching more television. At least, that is my goal this Lent. I also have to keep in mind how my sacrifices and attempts will affect my family. For instance, I was thinking of going meatless this Lent. Yet when I suggested it to my son, he was horrified by the idea that he wasn't going to get enough sustenance which he needs for school and work.
Another idea of mine was to not watch anything but EWTN or religious movies and programs on Netflix. When I suggested that idea to my family, they looked very skeptical that we could accomplish such a feat. It is a challenge to come up with a family-based Lent sacrifices with a college age son and a husband who did not have these traditions growing up.
The main thing we have to focus on are three things during Lent:
1. fasting, 2. almsgiving and 3. prayer
I think with a little effort I can probably come up with better ideas than just fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; putting extra coins in the CRS rice bowl and my usual daily prayers.
Note: We will try not resume what we are sacrificing on Sundays during Lent (Little Easters) as an additional sacrifices.
The following are some suggestions that I am sharing with you. Do not feel obligated to do all of the things listed. It will be better to accomplish one or two of the following during the entire Lenten season than to attempt all of them and fail by the end of the first week in Lent.
1. Non-religious reading material such as books and magazines will be saved until after Easter.
2. Radio, iPod, CD player will be silenced during Lent.
3. Participating in the Stations of the Cross with the parish or at least individually, every Friday.
4. Reading The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Bl. Anna Catherine Emmerich.
5. Watching more of the Lenten programs that EWTN offers through the Lenten Season.
6. Contributing money or groceries to our parish's outreach program.
7. Drinking nothing but water during Lent...and/or hold off drinking that water for let's say 5 minutes or so in remembrance when Jesus' thirsted. (John 19:28)
8. No snacking following dinner time.
9. Getting up early in order to make a Holy Hour of Adoration before morning Mass. (Matthew 26:40-46)
10. Buying a meal for a homeless person or just giving them money for a meal. (Matthew 26:11)
11. Sit quietly while knitting, sewing, crocheting, etc.
12. Giving up lunch, dinner, coffee with friends and taking the money saved by not going out and contributing that to Operation Rice Bowl.
13. Try to keep quiet when corrected or criticized. Remember Jesus remained silent amidst all the false accusations. Shouldn't we attempt to do the same. (Matthew 26:34)
14. Go to daily Mass during Lent. After all, our venial sins are forgiven at Mass! Why waste this golden opportunity.
15. Attend a parish mission.
16. Make sure to go to confession before Easter. Many parishes offer reconciliation services.
17. Make a good effort to examine your conscience daily.
18. Get into the habit or prayerfully and reverently saying Jesus' sweet Name as often as you can during the day.
19. If you don't pray the rosary daily, Lent is a good time to get into the habit of doing so.
20. Have a Mass offered for a holy soul in purgatory in your own family or group of friends.
21. Read books by the great spiritual writers such as my favorite Saint Francis de Sales. Other recommended writers include St. Theresa of Avila, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, St. Catherine of Genoa, St. Alphonsus di Liguori, etc. There are so many writers I could recommend.
22. Keep a Lenten journal.
23. Spiritually adopt a preborn baby, a priest and/or a persecuted Christian.
24. Plant a Lenten Garden. For ideas Google search "Lenten Garden" there are plenty of suggestions. You can also just grow a garden. After all, Lent means spring and spring is the time of new growth.
25. Forgive someone who has hurt you; reconcile with someone; or ask for to be forgiven if you have hurt someone.
26. Remember the elderly and offer assistance.
27. Participate in 40 Days for Life by actively praying in front of an abortion clinic or by making a Holy Hour for the conversion of abortionists.
28. Read the Holy Bible, especially the Gospels and also read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
29. Try to learn more about the Catholic Church so you can defend her when she is attacked.
30. Read the Thomas a. Kempis' Imitation of Christ and really make an attempt to imitate Christ.
31. Read more about your patron saint and try to imitate his or her virtues.
32. Read about a saint or holy person that you do not know much about.
33. Practice devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows and her seven dolors.
34. Practice devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus
35. Make it a point to meditate on the Passion of Christ every day.
36. Read from St. Faustina's Diary every day.
37. Start a prayer group with a few people to help each other grow spiritually.
38. Treat your family members like you would treat people outside the home...with respect.
39. Lift your heart and mind to God often during the day and night, especially when things are difficult.
40. Offer up your daily little cross for love of Jesus.
For more suggestions, be sure to check out the list I made last year and it can be found here.