Still stuck on what to do for Lent?
February 9, 2024
If you’re still looking for a Lenten devotion this year, four archdiocese clergy members offer some guidance.
But first, their cautions:
Whatever Lenten sacrifice or practice you might choose:
– Don’t turn it into a “marathon,” or an “endurance contest.”
– Don’t think of it as earning or attaining your own salvation.
– Don’t make it a self-improvement program or about you at all.
– Try not to be showy. (Jesus will have something to say about that in the Gospel reading for Mass on Ash Wednesday.)
– Don’t compare.
– Don’t just subtract, but add.
Giving up chocolate or pop can be difficult, Deacon Patrick Benson of St. Michael Parish in Central City acknowledges.
“Sacrifice is good, and sacrifice can help you to grow in your relationship with the Lord,” he said. But “instead of just taking stuff away … add to it, too.”
“Embrace adding anything that will help you spiritually to grow towards Christ, instead of just giving up something.”
Deacon Benson recommends adding something to increase spiritual knowledge, “whether it’s reading the Bible, whether it’s reading devotionals, whether it’s just spending time in adoration, quiet time with the Lord, whatever it is that works for you.”
“Saints did not become saints from giving up chocolate,” the deacon said, borrowing a line from his wife, Janelle.
The two help with catechism for youths in seventh through 12th grade and are challenging them to read one chapter from the Gospel of St. John every night through Lent and reflect on what they read.
“Then when we come meet on Wednesdays,” Deacon Benson said, “we’ll discuss what they thought, what God was talking to them about or what moved them.”
The students also will participate in a weekly Stations of the Cross service at St. Michael.
MAKE IT SIMPLE
Try focusing on a word for Lent, suggests Father Bill L’Heureux, pastor of St. Michael – as well as St. Rose of Lima Parish in Genoa, Sts. Peter and Paul in Krakow, St. Lawrence in Silver Creek, St. Peter in Clarks and St. Peter in Fullerton.
That simple idea came from one of his parishioners.
The word might be a virtue, such as hope or patience – or a vice, such as greed, lust, pride or gluttony.
Take little steps away from the vice, or toward the virtue, during Lent, he said.
“You don’t have to make a goal to fit into your swimsuit, lose eight pounds, 10 pounds, so you can look better this summer.
“It’s really not about self-improvement. It’s about self-growth and getting to know in a new way our friend Jesus, Who will give us the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us get somewhere from where we’re at.
“Just move beyond being stuck,” Father L’Heureux said.
“Metanoia literally means turning to the One Who’s always turned to us. So it shouldn’t necessarily be about our ego, our own personality and our person, but just should be about God.”
Lent is not about earning or attaining one’s own salvation. Instead, Father L’Heureux said, “what our Lenten practices do might make us more available for what’s already there.”
THE ULTIMATE GOAL
“We need to make sure we keep the ultimate goal of Lent in mind,” said Father Mark Beran, a pastor of 11 parishes and missions in Rural Family E of the archdiocese.
“Whatever we do for Lent, whether big or small, needs to help us renew our faith in Jesus,” he said.
“If we do a million things during this holy season and are not closer to Christ at the end of it, we have missed the point. It would be better to do one or two meaningful penances during Lent that help you grow closer to the Lord.”
“Lent is about becoming a saint, pure and simple,” said Father Dan Andrews, pastor and director of the St. John Paul II Newman Center in Omaha.
He said examining one’s vices is a good idea.
“A simple way to take an inventory is to ask yourself: What do I own, and what owns me? What virtues would help to replace the negative things?”
“If you’re spending too much time on the phone, if someone could say the vice is a form of gluttony, too much of something. … The virtue associated with that would be temperance,” he said.
“So I just lay out a plan for use of my phone, and maybe have some accountability with that,” possibly with a friend to help.
“Associate where are the vices,” Father Andrews said, “and where are the virtues that can replace the vices?”
God can help with that discernment in prayer, he said.
“Lord Jesus, where are the places where I’m not letting You in?”
What are “the things that I go to that just kind of portion out my heart and mind to other things instead of You?”
Lent is “not a marathon, nor is it an endurance contest,” Father Andrews said. “It’s just simply trying to be more intent on our relationship with God and letting things go which don’t help that.”
It’s good to have someone to walk with in the spiritual journey of Lent, to hold us accountable, Father L’Heureux said. “God wants to save us together, not just one by one.”
But involving others does have limits.
For the most part, people shouldn’t be asking each other about what they are doing for Lent, Father Andrews said.
“So just keep that between us and the Lord. We don’t need to be really advertising or comparing what we’re doing, or complaining about it, but just to live that out and keep it in the quiet of our hearts,” he said.
“It’s pretty wise just to be about the earnest practice of going deeper and giving all of our attention to it.”
Some exceptions can be made when you ask a person to hold you accountable for your actions, Father Andrews said, or when you ask someone to accompany you in your Lenten devotion.
“But I don’t need to put it on Facebook,” he said. “Less noise is better.”
If someone would ask you what you’re doing for Lent, and you’d rather not reveal that, you could say “Jesus and I are working that out,” he advised.
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