Ash Wednesday has always been a special day of devotion for Catholics. This year, of course, will be different as Ash Wednesday, to be celebrated on February 17, is situated in a time when health and safety precautions are of the utmost importance. We are in the middle of a pandemic.
Nevertheless, Ash Wednesday continues to be an outward sign of the beginning of a season of penitence and 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 January 1 and give up by January 15, sometimes we approach Lent with too many resolutions. For Christian stewards, the search for God in our lives can never be a half-hearted, tepid response. It must be all or nothing. The search is a lifelong commitment. Thomas Merton offered a basic principle of stewardship: “A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all.” What is the stewardship question for me? Am I ready and willing to commit to the long search for God in my life? It is important it is to identify what you truly value and then pursue it.
- Simplify something tangible in your daily life, like your closet or your schedule.
- 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. 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.
- If possible and safe, take your family to the Stations of the Cross at least once.
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and encourage your family to do so.
- Make it a point to prepare for and participate in the beautiful Triduum liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and even the Easter Vigil even if you can only do this online. 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.