Lenten resolutions are fruitless if we do not prepare ahead of time. The history of the Catholic Church is astounding and the Church Calendar is a great source for personal growth, more than Catholics probably realize. Traditionally, there were specific names for the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday: Septuagesima Sunday (about 70 days before Easter, seventh decade – which also represents the 70 years of Babylonian Captivity), Sexagesima Sunday (about 60 days before Easter, sixth decade), Quinquagesima Sunday (about 50 days before Easter, or the fifth decade). Each of these Sundays have great importance in the Catholic Church – it is a time of preparation before Lent. Our wise Mother Church gives us a warning, a time to prepare our souls for the upcoming Lenten Season. A season that brings personal growth, spiritual renewal, and a specific time to prepare for a fruitful Lent.
As these three weeks lead us to Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent, we are offered time to contemplate our eternal salvation. The saints did not reach heaven without self-discipline and so the Church also provides us with a specific time each year to discipline our inordinate desires and to focus on our eternal life: Lent.
But how are we to prepare for this important liturgical time that leads us to Easter? We are given three weeks to review our daily prayer lives and our daily failings. Each evening we should make a good Act of Contrition after examining our conscience. This daily habit allows us to quickly recognize our shortcomings and sins. Spend these three weeks focusing on the areas of your life that might need improvement. This is how we can slowdown, concentrate, and prepare for the upcoming Lenten Season.
During the week of Septuagesima Sunday (in 2020, February 9) examine your overall prayer life. Write down what a typical day of prayer looks like for you. It is different for everyone and very different even for moms who are in varying stages. The purpose of this is not to create guilt, but to show where we can improve, even if it’s slightly. We can introduce offering one Spiritual Communion each day, praying the Rosary, attending one additional weekdays Mass, or saying the Stations of the Cross every Friday (or even every day).
During the week of Sexagesima Sunday (in 2020, February 16) examine your daily personal failings. What constantly pops up on your nightly examination of conscience? Are we impatient with others? Do we speak uncharitable? Are we spending too much time in idle tasks rather than spending our time in a profitable manner whether through work or play? Do we find solace in material items rather than in God? Choose one (or more) of these failings that has crept into your soul throughout the year. Success will not be attained overnight, but true adherence towards amendment during Lent may lead to a wiping clean of such a sin.
During the week of Quinquagesima Sunday (in 2020, February 23) spend each day with 15 minutes of spiritual reading. After that short time, create a Rule of Life for the Lenten Season. This includes amending a personal habit and a spiritual exercise. Do not attempt to overhaul your entire life in one Lent. It is not doable, especially not as mothers. The saints did not become saints overnight. They failed and started again, and failed and started again, but with each failing they worked towards amending their self-desires to seek only God’s love. It took the saints their entire lifetimes to reach heaven, some of those lives were longer than others. Let’s begin and end each day with a renewed contrition.
Praying for you all during the Pre-Lenten and Lenten Season. It is a time of great penitence and preparation for our souls as we walk each day closer to Easter, the “happy ending.” As G.K. Chesterton said,
The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy.
Copyright 2020 Danielle Heckenkamp