It’s here! My very favorite season of the liturgical year: Lent.
What was that? you ask. Ashes and fasting and penance is your favorite!?!
Yes! Ever since my conversion to Catholicism when I was a child in 1993, my heart has been drawn to the beauty of Lent — the somber tone, the gorgeous liturgies, and yes, even the penance.
And each year as I’ve grown older, I see more clearly the Church’s great wisdom in giving us a yearly spiritual wake-up call. Pope St. John Paul says it best:
“By inviting us through the discipline of Lent to tread the paths of love and hope marked out by Christ, the Church makes us realize that the Christian life involves detachment from superfluous goods, and the acceptance of a poverty which sets us free, and enables us to discover God’s presence and to welcome our brothers and sisters with an ever more active solidarity and in an ever wider fellowship.” // source
So what makes a good Lent?
The Catechism tells us that Lent is an “intense moment of the Church’s penitential practice” and calls the faithful to spiritual exercises, pilgrimages, voluntary self-denial, almsgiving, and charitable works (CCC 1438).
In the Gospels, Christ urges us to “be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” and to “take up your cross and follow Me.” These commands are for every day of the year, but during Lent, we seek to fulfill them with greater fervor.
Knowing what’s expected of us, we may easily get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of it all — our focus drifts towards doing Lent “right” and trying not to “fail.” But here’s where we do well to remember that the purpose of all the penance is to convert our hearts and to increase our love for God:
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin our Lenten journey with joyful confidence. May we feel deep within us the call to conversion, to ‘return to God with all our heart,’ accepting His grace which makes us new men and women.” // Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
At its heart, the season of Lent is for renewing our souls through deeper, more humble, and more intimate contact with Christ and the Sacraments. If we can pray, fast, and work toward that goal, then it’s a great Lent.
Here are some resources to make Lent 2017 one of your best:
What is Lent?
- Lent & Easter, education and reflections by EWTN
- The Lent Workshop (online), by Catholic Culture
- Lent FAQs, by Catholic.org
- The Pray More (Virtual) Lenten Retreat, from John Paul and Annie at Pray More Novenas
- Gospel Lenten Reflections with Bishop Robert Barron, by Word on Fire Ministries
- Put on Love Lenten Journal, by Blessed is She
- Virtual Stations of the Cross (with video and sacred music), by Catholic.org
- Meditation on the Seven Deadly Sins (DVD), by Bishop Robert Barron
- 40 Prayer Journal Prompts for Lent from Amy at Prayer, Wine, Chocolate
- Mid-Lent Boot Camp, from Katie at Catholic Katie
What to Give Up?
- Outside the Box: 66 Things to Give Up or Take Up for Lent, from Kendra at Catholic All Year
- 25 Great Things You Can Do for Lent, by Busted Halo
- 39 Ways to Keep Lent Holy (Without Giving Up Sweets), from Amy at Prayer, Wine, Chocolate
- The Best Lent Ever, by Matthew Kelly at Dynamic Catholic
- Letters of Love: A Lenten Meditation for Families, from Ginny at Not So Formulaic
- Keeping Lent: A Guide to What We Do for Kids, from Kendra at Catholic All Year
- Lenten Coloring Pages, from Katie at Look to Him and Be Radiant
- Lenten Activities for Children, from Lacy at Catholic Icing
- Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure, by Holy Heroes
- Stations of the Cross CD for Children, by Holy Heroes
- Lenten Crafts and Activities, from Monica at Equipping Catholic Families
- The Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide for Families, from Liz at Catholic Deals
- 8 Picture Books for Lent and Easter, from Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas
- Feast! Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year, a cookbook by Haley at Carrots for Michaelmas
- Meatless Friday Recipes, by the contributors at CatholicMom.com
- Recipes for Lent, by the contributors at Catholic Cuisine
- 30 Quotes to Help You Journey Through Lent, from Angie at Yellow Pelican
- Scripture-Based Adult Coloring Pages for Lent, from Nancy at Do Small Things with Love
- Lent at Ephesus (Audio CD), by the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles
- My Top 10 Books to Read During Lent, from Angie at Yellow Pelican
- Recommended Reading for Lent, from Jen Fulwiler
- Scriptural Stations of the Cross, by the USCCB
- Pope John Paul II’s Messages for Lent, Vatican website
For the next 40 days, may we “tread the paths of love and hope marked out by Christ”!
Copyright 2017 Lydia Borja