True confession: I still have a few random Christmas decorations to put away.
But, ready or not, Lent will begin in about three weeks. For most of my life, I never thought a whole lot about Lent. I would make a half-hearted effort to give up sweets or something, as I had done as a child, and not worry too much about it. But at some point, I came to realize that Lent is important and the better we live Lent, the more we will appreciate the glory of Easter. The Church is actually pretty good at helping us to do that.
In the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday, we ought to plan for Lent. Giving up chocolate may or may not be a sacrifice – many of us probably don’t consume much of it anyway. Giving up the evening glass of wine or beer might be a more realistic sacrifice. We ought to choose something that will cause enough discomfort to notice, without going overboard. Think about what would be a good fit. Think outside the box, too. What about giving up social media? TV time? Dining out?
Another aspect of Lent is prayer. We want to up that, but how? I find the best way is to do some spiritual reading. Reading saints biographies, or something meditative or inspirational, scripture of course… What best suits us? Such reading is valuable in itself plus it tends to leave us thinking more about God and His plan for us, which leads to prayer. Now is a good time to visit a Catholic bookstore or browse online for something interesting. (I will post some online resources in the next week or so.) Be ready to dive into this prayerful season.
Lent is also a time of giving. We may want to think ahead and plan on how we will arrange our charitable giving. For example, if we have saved twenty or thirty dollars a week by giving up wine or desserts, that amount should be our minimum donation to charity. What is a meaningful way to give?
Lent is a time of sacrifice and restraint but it can be very edifying, especially if we are “all in.” Plan for a holy Lent so as to truly benefit from this penitential season.