Help! How Do I Choose a Lenten Practice?
Lent is just days away, beginning on Wednesday, February 14. Has this holy season snuck up on you? Don’t fret! There is still time to choose a meaningful Lenten practice and enter the season prayerfully. During Lent, Catholics are encouraged to focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as they prepare to celebrate the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. For many people, this takes the form of giving up a favorite food or activity for the 40 days of Lent. But you can do more than just fast. Perhaps you will dedicate your Lent to reading Scripture, or maybe you will go to daily Mass. You might decide to take up a volunteering practice. The options are numerous, and your choice should be something that strengthens your relationship with God.
Try these three steps to choose a practice this Lent:
1. Pray for guidance.
Before you do anything else, pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to guide you in your decision. Ask God for the grace to discern the practice that will most closely align your will with his. When you pray, be sure to give yourself ample time and a quiet space so that you can be open to God’s voice.
Lent is a time to turn away from sin, but that does not mean you should “fast” from sinning. Sin is something you need to want to give up altogether. You can’t decide to give up gossiping for Lent, for example, and then pick it back up on Easter. But if there is a particular sin that is keeping you from God, your struggle can help guide your decision. Your practice does not even have to be directly related to the sin. If the sin with which you struggle is indeed gossiping, you may decide to give up coffee for Lent. You are not less likely to gossip if you give up coffee, but every time you think about having a cup, your sacrifice will remind you that you are working toward living a holier life.
You don’t need to overthink your Lenten practice. When you reflect on your spiritual life and how you would like to improve it, chances are that a certain theme will come to mind right away. It’s okay—and often good—to go with the obvious. God is stirring your heart in a particular direction for a reason. Reflect honestly on your life right now, and let yourself be open to what God wants you to do.
3. Give it to God.
Once you have reflected, a practice has probably begun to take shape. Your initial reaction might be panic as you think about fulfilling that practice for the whole season of Lent. That is okay, and it does not mean you should throw your idea out. Instead, purposefully tell God what you plan to do for the sake of your relationship with him. Whatever your sacrifice is, entrust it to God. He is capable of doing amazing things with even the smallest sacrifices. Remember, also, that he will give you everything you need to do what he has asked you to do.
Whatever you choose as your main Lenten practice, remember to practice all three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. All three are important ways to grow in faith. May God bless you this Lent!