Ash Wednesday is a special day of devotion for Catholics. Churches are packed like no other day except Christmas and Easter. Even though the Church does not designate Ash Wednesday as a holy day of obligation, Catholics flock to receive ashes. Along with this outward sign of the beginning of a season of penitence, we embrace the call to conversion that Ash Wednesday heralds. Christian stewards will greet Lent with the best of intentions. But sometimes, we reach Easter disappointed in our own efforts. Here are some suggestions for keeping us on task during this Lenten season:
Plan ahead. Give thought and prayer to what will most help you draw closer to Jesus during this special season. Write your intentions down, and review them often.
Keep it simple. Like those folks who sign up for gym memberships on Janu¬ary 1 and give up by January 15, sometimes we approach Lent with too many resolutions. Be realistic and don’t set yourself up for guilt.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the pillars of Lent. Try to do one thing in each of these categories. Stretch yourself a bit and come up with something new and challenging.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Coming closer to him through his passion and resurrection is our goal.
Prepare your home with Lenten reminders. If you have no crucifix in your living areas, place one there. If you have a crucifix, perhaps affix a spot of purple to it as a reminder of Lent. Find a special picture or holy card that speaks to you and display it.
Simplify something tangible in your daily life, like your closet or your schedule.
Take your family to the Stations of the Cross at least once. The devotion is held at St. Mary’s every Friday in Lent at 12:10 p.m.
Place a special candle on the dining room table, and when your family says grace each evening, encourage them to share the struggles and joys of their Lenten resolutions, or perhaps an act of kindness they did that day. This is a good activity for kids.
Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and encourage your family to do so. Our parish is hosting a Communal Penance Service with private confessions on Tuesday, February 23 at 6:30 p.m. In addition, several priests are available every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. to hear your confession.
Take five minutes every day during Lent and read a chapter in Rediscover Jesus. If possible, refer to the “Best Lent Ever” app as well.
Make it a point to prepare for and participate in the beautiful Triduum liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and even the Easter Vigil. Celebrate the completion of your Lenten exercises.
After Easter, reflect on your Lenten practices. Remember, God’s mercy to us is unlimited. It’s not all about what “we” did, but what God does within us.