Since I've finished my discussion of scripture and the virtues and their guidance in our relationship with creation, I thought I might take a little break from that train of thought to talk a little about Lent.
The Lenten season begins next week and often it sneaks up on us. After all, we're busy people! And Ash Wednesday isn't on every calendar you see. Worst of all, it's not on the same date every year! Christmas is always December 25, Valentine's Day is always February 14, but Easter (and Ash Wednesday, as a result) changes every year. It's almost like the liturgical calendar was designed by espionage agents. ("Never take the same path twice!")
Not to worry, I am here to help. I've been reflecting on Lents past and which of mine were spiritually enriching and which others were not. What I found was a bit comforting. The fact is, any Lent in which I committed to some sort of devotion ended up being spiritually enriching to me on some level. Whether I gave up sweets or stopped speeding (Yes, that was actually one of my more successful devotions!) or read the mass readings daily, I gained some spiritual fruit from the experience.
The Lents that were spiritually "dry" were those in which I neglected to plan or commit to some sort of devotion. They were the Lents which "snuck up" on me. So, I'm here to keep that from happening to you. (And me too!)
For those of you who like step-by-step checklists (like me!) try this process for reflection:
First, think about your life right now and the situations you are in. What are the challenges you face? Are you caring for young children, older children, aging parents? Are you struggling financially? Are you lonely? Are you struggling with relationships in your life?
All of these situations can be an opportunity for you to grow closer to God.
Next, make a plan. Ask yourself how God is calling you to handle the challenges in your life. How can you open yourself up to what God is trying to tell you? What are some specific things you can do to show God that you are open and obedient to Him? Some examples might be prayer, sacrificial offerings and acts of service.
Last, use the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy as an aid to maintain your focus throughout the season. Here's a link to both of them: http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=7903
I promise that if you enter the season of Lent with the will to deepen your faith, God will give you the grace to do so.