Posted on March 5, 2019
By: Clare Schiller
What should I do or give up for Lent this year?
You may be asking yourself this question, or maybe you have already come up with a Lenten resolution list. Perhaps it is a repeat of your New Year’s resolution list, which you hope will be more successful with some extra spiritual motivation. Having spent many Lents with this type of list, I began to question my habits: What is Lent really for, anyway? Is it just a time of good-work boot camp only to return to the old ways after Easter? What do those resolutions do for me? What does the Church ask of us during this time? Am I missing the “spirit of Lent”?
A little research, of course, revealed that our Holy Mother Church does answer these questions! As you prepare to answer the question, What am I doing or giving up for Lent this year?, we invite you to meditate on the following quotations:
“The season of Lent has a twofold character: primarily by recalling or preparing for baptism and by penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #109)
How can I recall the gift of my baptism this Lent? Suggestions:
- Meditate on the amazing gift of baptism.
- Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1213-1284 on baptism, stopping to talk to Jesus about any part that strikes you.
- Meditate on the connection between baptism and the paschal mystery.
- Renew your baptismal promises daily.
How can I practice penance this Lent? Suggestions:
- Consider the following passage from the Catechism “Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.” (CCC 1430)
- Read 1434-1439 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church about penance to gain a greater understanding of the purpose and spirit of penance and to avoid penances that are “sterile and false.”
- Stop to talk to Jesus about any part in the following passages about penance that strikes you.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what part of your heart is most in need of conversion and how this should be lived out in works of penance.
- Write down whatever came up for you in prayer.
- If you have a spiritual director or mentor, ask for his/her input on the penance you have chosen.
These passages from the Catechism illuminated for me what questions I should be asking myself as I prepare for my Lenten journey. Rather than my usual, What should I do or give up for Lent this year?, I will begin to ask, What part of my heart is in need of conversion, of turning to Jesus for healing? Another way to ask this question is: What part of my heart is not yet living the magnificent reality of my baptism? What part of me is not living fully as the son or daughter of the Father?
I invite you to ask these questions with me. As the Holy Spirit reveals the answers to each of us, the answer to the original, more common question of what to do or give up for Lent will come more naturally, as our outward penances will be simply an expression of the interior conversion begun in us.
Whatever you choose to do or give up for Lent, I pray that it will help prepare you to renew your baptismal vows at Easter and celebrate the joys of the paschal mystery not merely as an end to your Lenten penance but more importantly as the beginning of a deeper “walk in newness of life.”
“Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
Clare Schiller is a daughter of the Merciful Father, a wife, and a mother to three munchkins. She is passionate about discovering the truth and living in it. Clare enjoys the outdoors (particularly when the sun is shining), reading the Chronicles of Narnia with her children, playing the piano, and any sort of good conversation with a cup of tea. Clare graduated from Ave Maria University in 2012 with a BA in Literature and lives in Front Royal, VA. She is currently going through Pietra Fitness Instructor Training.