If you’re like me, you end up (unintentionally) leaving planning and thinking out Lenten practices until RIGHT before Lent starts. If you’re in the situation like I am, don’t beat yourself up over it: God’s grace still is overflowing!
There are several quick things that can be incorporated last-minute as a Lenten practice of fasting, prayer, and charity. I’m not saying that they are easy to do, necessarily, but they are quick to incorporate and require little to no preparation.
1. Morning prayer
I am not a morning person. My kids are definitely much more in this category. It is difficult for me to get up before them and there’s no chance that I could do this successfully before they notice that I’m up and get up themselves. So what I’ve started doing is praying the readings of the day and a reflection before I leave my bed. The kids might even be snuggled in beside me, but I can still read the daily scripture on my phone. During a preparatory season I include spiritual reading in with my morning prayer. This year I’m reading/doing 33 Days to Morning Glory; last year I did the Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. I don’t read much per day, only about a page, but it’s something more to chew on spiritually.
2. Lenten Song for Grace
We’ve done this for a number of years now; we replace grace with a Lenten song. This has two main effects: It helps us reflect on the meaning of the season two or three times a day, and it also increases our kids’ participation in the Mass as we usually choose a relatively well-known Lent song. This year, as my kids are a bit older, we will probably rotate between two to three songs, increasing the reflection on the season and their familiarity with songs at Mass.
3. Increase Service Time
We participate in a program called Meals on Wheels here as a family. Two times a month we deliver meals to housebound people over lunch time. We are increasing our availability to doing this three times a month as a family. This is a particular practice that we do (localized) and I don’t expect that it’s something you necessarily do! However, opportunities for service are plentiful! Either adding in something new or increasing your time in an area where you already serve is a great way to open our hearts to Jesus more. If you’re having troubles finding something, the corporal works of mercy are a great place to find a fit:
- Feed the hungry
- Give drink to the thirsty
- Shelter to the homeless
- Visit the sick
- Visit prisoners
- Bury the dead
- Give alms to the poor
There have been many times that visiting the sick and those with infirmities has been a great option for us as well.
4. Less Media Time
It is hard to break up with our phones and media. Some people feel called to give it up entirely over Lent. I actually believe that is the easier option — to just write it off completely for the time. I think it is much, much harder to limit and rein in current usage of phones and media while not completely cutting oneself off from it. These are some things that I’ve done in the past, with some success and also some fails:
- Limit phone usage in the mornings to reading reflections and prayers, and messaging with friends
- Put my phone away while my kids (especially) are in my presence. This usually meant that when they were outside playing or busy elsewhere or sleeping were the times in which I used my phone
- Limit usage of my phone/TV to certain hours or certain days of the week
- Whenever I reach for my phone to read news/articles/roam social media I force myself to open my prayer app first and spend three to five minutes praying first (daytime Liturgy of the Hours is great for this time frame)
5. Fast From Foods
When I think of fasting from food, I always want to come up with excuses. Always. The scripture that grounds me is the story of casting out a demon:
When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting.’ (Mark 9:29)
Fasting. It’s an important spiritual weapon and a good defense. I need to be reminded of this often: that fasting, when done in a spirit of humility and moderation, does much for my soul. However, if I had a history of an eating disorder, I would likely approach this differently. For most of us though, we could easily take on fasting more often and offer the experience up to God. If we already have a habit of fasting, refraining from complaints and turning to praise in fasting more often would be my next step.
This year, this will be especially difficult for me! I’ve discovered that the gastro problems I’ve been enduring are due to lactose intolerance and that there is medicine I can take that will allow me to consume dairy again. So my initial desire is to go out and EAT ALL THE DAIRY. I’m going to use Lent to moderate this desire to eat all dairy and only consume it several prescribed days a week. For me, this brings some sadness because, well, I just love cheese so darned much.
Well, those are some quick add-ins for Lent that can be brought in last minute! I’ve seen so many great posts about planning out Lent for your family, I hope you’ve been able to find something to help bring you and your family closer to God!
I’m ever so curious – what are you and your family doing this Lent?
Copyright 2019 Jane Korvemaker