By the time you read this, it will be about a week into Lent. My family and I will have attended Ash Wednesday Mass and hopefully will have delved into the penance and fasting that we’ve planned. Perhaps we will have met our goals. Maybe we’ll have earned some humility, as we will have already faltered and will need to recommit and try again.
At the suggestion of friend and editor of Today’s Catholic, I’m going to tell you what our family is striving to do for Lent. I do so with some trepidation, however, because at this point, what I write we intend to do may or may not have become reality.
My dad used to say, “the road to you know where is paved with good intentions,” stressing the point that actions speak louder than words. Of course this is true. However, the other side of the coin is also accurate: “a journey begins with the first step” and that if and when we falter the answer is not to give up, but to recommit and try again.
I share our plans hopefully to encourage. I share our plans hopefully to inspire. But mostly, I share our plans because if I write down in this column what we’re proposing to do, I’m personally pressured to follow through. It’s like announcing to your family that you’re planning on going on a diet, and they help you. Oh, they help you.
Our family Lenten commitment will include prayer. Prayer is the cornerstone and lifeblood of our relationship with God. If our souls live forever (which they do) and our bodies on account of sin in the world will die (which they will) some suggest that the spiritual realm might be more of a reality than the physical one. Might prayer change things that even the best physical actions can’t? I think so! Therefore, charging forward in conversation with God, in prayer, is critical. Our family prayer life will include more attendance at Mass (perhaps even at parishes other than our own), in Eucharistic Adoration, and perhaps at Stations of the Cross. The rosaries are coming out of the top drawer in the dining room buffet cabinet.
To that end, as in years past, our youngest will be in charge of holding up the visuals for our family rosary — 8 x 10 inch color pictures obtained from a religious goods store depicting each of the mysteries. We do this for several reasons. First, it gives the youngest child a way to be active and reduce chances of squirming. Having this “job” makes her feel important. Second, it helps the whole family visualize the mystery. Third, it helps those who may have gotten rusty in remembering the mysteries of the rosary a chance for practice. Thus, prayer is our family’s first Lenten commitment.
Second, I’m also trying something I haven’t done since before David and I were married-using a prayer journal to remember intentions. The communion of saints is the relationship and unity of members of the Church on this earth (Church militant) with the souls in purgatory (Church suffering) and the souls in heaven (Church triumphant). I’m reminding myself of this basic Catholic truth and including petitions from people I know in my prayers as well as bolstering prayers for the souls in purgatory and asking for the intercession of those saints in heaven.
I know myself and I know the key is to keep things simple. Therefore, writing this down in my prayer journal will keep me on track.
Third, I’m committing to some personal self-improvement. I’ll keep most of that private but will share it has to do with improving my attitude towards those I love and treating them like the gifts they are.
Fourth, we’re all doing some spiritual reading. For me, this means pulling out one of my all time favorite books “Introduction to the Devout Life” by St. Francis de Sales. This book has recommendations for growing closer to God through meditation and contemplation, as well as practical suggestions for daily living. Some chapters in the book include “On Friendship,” “Concerning Speech,” “How to Strengthen Our Heart Against Temptation,” “Instructions for Married Persons,” “Instructions to Widows” and “A Word to Virgins.” There are also chapters on anxiety, sorrow and society and solitude. For myself during Lent, I’m rereading this gem and leading a book study with a group of moms.
Are we “giving things up?” Yes, that’s a personal choice for each Thomas member. And yes, Confession “for everyone!”
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