The end of the Lenten season is a time to reflect on the spiritual growth experienced throughout the past 40 days. It is a time to further develop those Lenten resolutions to grow closer to God, not to discontinue them. No Lenten journey is perfect, and there is always room to grow throughout the year. Each person finds encouragement to push on toward the ultimate prize – heaven – through the influences of those who came before and the sojourners still toiling on the path toward eternity.
Inspired by the past, Today’s Catholic explores what it means to carry the cross in the present and to strive for a future of sainthood through the 40 days of Lent.
We can think of Lent as a time to eradicate evil or cultivate virtue, a time to pull up weeds or to plant good seeds. Which is better is clear, for the Christian ideal is always positive rather than negative.
Venerable Fulton Sheen
I remember Lent in my freshman year of college. My Lenten resolution was to spend at least 30 minutes a day in front of the Blessed Sacrament since it was not a habit of mine at that time. I remember being resistant to it at first because I preferred to get my schoolwork done or simply stay busy. It was really hard to get into it and I felt myself battling it throughout most of Lent. I felt as if this was bearing no fruit at all. But as I got toward the end of Lent, I felt myself feeling more relaxed in prayer and even beginning to feel God’s presence. It made me think of the sun’s rays. If we stay in the rays of the sun long enough, the rays will cause a change in the color of our skin. If we stay in the presence of the Lord long enough, His rays will change the condition of our soul. That is what I felt was happening to me. That Lent in particular helped me realize the power of the Eucharist and praying in front of the Eucharist. Its rays of grace can change us in amazing ways!
Father Ryan Pietrocarlo
While writing a personal note to 40 different friends, family or acquaintances each day during the season of Lent, I reflected on how each had touched my life. This offered an opportunity to pray for each, giving thanks for them and to God for placing them in my life.
Lent means coming home to the one place where I am accepted for exactly who I am – a sinner in need of a Savior. My aunt gave me her rosary the Christmas before she passed, telling me one day I would know what to do with it and it would bring me home. Eleven years later at the age of 29, my aunt’s beloved rosary did just that as I was blessed by the waters of baptism into the Catholic Church.
Janice Martin, WP
Lent is the autumn of the spiritual life during which we gather fruit to keep us going for the rest of the year. Enrich yourselves with these treasures, which nobody can take away from you and which cannot be destroyed.
St. Francis de Sales
During Lent, I do not make a conscious effort to give up something. Rather it is more important and more spiritually uplifting to make a conscious effort to be prayerful. Hence, my Lenten days are centered on quiet conversations with God.
Alfred J. Guillaume Jr., Ph.D.
I observe Lent by reading the complete Liturgy of the Hours daily. I find that the discipline of prayer and the routine focus on spending time with God puts a strong focus on the true meaning of Lent. For me, doing something rather than giving something up is more impactful at this stage in my life.
What does Lent mean to you? The word “Lent” is taken from the Anglo-Saxon word “lenctentid” which means “springtime.” And since we witness the weather change from winter to spring, I look at Lent as a time of new life. Obviously the season is meant for conversion, and so I recommit myself to openness to God’s grace so that Easter may be ever more joyful with the flourishing of a springtime of grace.
Father Jonathan Norton
For me, Lent is akin to a house cleaning of my soul. In order to get my soul in good shape, I assess what needs to be cleansed and discarded. Through reconciliation, prayer and service to others, my soul is fortified to experience the beauty of the triduum.
In making a sacrifice by not drinking coffee on weekdays, I am reminded how the Lord offered up Himself for my salvation and have a deeper appreciation. It also is an opportunity to use my small sacrifice to pray for souls who need prayers the most.
I always go through Ken Kniepmann’s book “Lenten Healing: 40 Days to Set You Free from Sin.” It is a series of daily meditations which provide a great way to see how the Seven Deadly Sins are at play in my life and how to invite Our Lord into those particular areas, specifically to help cultivate in place of them the seven heavenly virtues. I always pair this with the other sacrifices that I decide to commit to for that Lent, which makes for an excellent way to get at the root of my sins. This makes it much easier for me to recognize my sinfulness, accept Jesus’ merciful love in the sacrament of confession, and to then share that love with my neighbor.
We have all given up so much over the last year, I didn’t want to add more to that list. This year I am abstaining from a few of my pandemic habits, and replacing them with more fruitful activities. Listening to a spiritual podcast or praying the Liturgy of the Hours rather than playing my favorite music, and completing extra chores around the house instead of endless TV time in the evenings with are a couple ways I am preparing my heart, and home, for the joy of Easter.
In my earlier years, Lenten season only meant “subtraction” – I mainly fasted, trying to pick something that I would notice, something that would clearly take me out of my daily routine. Lately, I have taken to also “adding” things during Lent; for example, adding prayer (quality time and dialogue with God). That could mean greater time, variety or frequency of prayer. Sometimes, I try to add joyful prayers of praise or thanksgiving, rather than just a litany of petitions. It’s also amazing what a brief moment of prayer to start each day (or hour) can accomplish – especially on difficult days! “Lord, thank you for the precious gift of this hour/day to walk with you. Amen.” My busy schedule seems to make adding (prayer) more challenging than subtracting (fasting); but ironically, by adding, I am actually subtracting. As I add time back to God, I inevitably purge my day of things that too often distract me from God’s presence. In the process, no longer so enslaved to time, I often find myself also adding time back to my marriage, to my children, to serving others, because I now see time in a different light. It’s the “new math” in my life, for which the Lenten season is a perfect instructor.
Deacon Mel Tardy
As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst … ‘Repent and believe,’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor – He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.
Saint Teresa of Kolkata
The first thing that comes to mind with the question of “how has the Lenten season brought you closer to God?” is by fostering an acceptance of and embracing almsgiving. My parents always encouraged my sister and I to try “doing” more for others during Lent rather than only “giving up” things. I have learned over the years that by coming out of my own desires, even the desire to only fast and then forget come Easter, I grow in and purify the way I interact with my neighbors as God has been asking me to all along. Like the commandments and beatitudes tell us to, Lent helps me reaffirm my relationship with my neighbors, myself and with God.
Samuel Martinez, seminarian
Lent to me is like a tunnel on the road of life. We get so distracted by everyday problems around us that we need that focused “tunnel vision” on God to realign our priorities. Then after the season is over, we emerge with a greater understanding of the world and life all around us, suddenly radiant in God’s light.
I have noticed during Lent that personal persecution is particularly prevalent. Wounded, I repeatedly call out for God’s mercy. In the end, I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect on what is often a revelation of truth and I ultimately become closer to God.
Before this year of pandemic, each Lent I would read a daily devotional, say a daily rosary, attend daily mass, stations of the cross, and spend time in prayer at adoration. But not this year. I’m still isolating at home, so in addition to readying my daily Lenten devotional and saying my daily rosary, I am doing a total consecration to St. Joseph. I’ve discovered the best kept secret of our faith. There is no better person to journey through Lent with, than with our spiritual father, St. Joseph. If I want a life of holiness, I must fuel it with prayer and what better way than daily praying the Litany of St. Joseph. He was predestined by God to be my spiritual father. What has God predestined me to be?
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