Happy feast of St. Blaise! I got my throat blessed today, I'm going to spin later (I just found out that St. Blaise was tortured with carding combs, and is thus the patron saint of wool combers. So cool!), and we're only one week away from Lent. How epic is that? Lent used to fill me with terror, but now it is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. And, it's not too early to start preparing for it! In fact, I drew up my "Lenten plan" about a week ago, but today I started adding more stuff (we'll see if that lasts, God may have other plans). I love Lent!!!
Tons of people dread Lent. After all, it stretches us. Frankly, that can be uncomfortable. This isn't a bad thing, though. Lent should be uncomfortable, because we die to ourselves as we draw closer to Christ. I think it's easy to get scared with the coming of Lent. We see gloom, mortifications, and fasting, and we don't see that we should offer ourselves as a way to draw nearer to Christ. Yes, dying to ourselves isn't all that cozy, but madly falling in love with Christ in a deeper way is far more powerful and fulfilling than any discomfort we experience.
When I was young, I mainly saw Lent as a time to "give something up" (usually dessert), and I'd leave it at that. When I was 13, though, one of my teachers explained the traditional three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Ever since then, I try to practice all three pillars as a way to deepen my relationship with God in a fuller way. I began to experience more growth in my spiritual life, because I wasn't just denying myself a pleasure with my fast-I was taking proactive steps to further spread God's love and grow closer to Him in prayer and almsgiving. (here's a link with the guidelines for Catholics on fasting and abstinence-note that invalids, pregnant ladies, and nursing moms are exempt).
Anyways, here's my rundown for Lent 2016:
Prayer: 10 minutes of silent prayer and/or Bible reading each day. I'll probably start out with the Song of Songs, since I love that book and there's so much epicness in it, but I'll have to see. I'll also pray the Stations of the Cross each Friday. (Here's a post I wrote about my top favorite way of praying The Stations of the Cross.)
Fasting: No radio or CDs in the car, and no desserts/sweets on Fridays.
Almsgiving: Giving away the clothes that I've started setting aside for this purpose. I'll also start reading A Call to a Deeper Love (the love letters of Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin). I'm also going to work on my vocation story-memoir/thing twice a week (something that I've been trying to do for a few years now...just to have it written down to read when I'm old and senile, or for our children to read someday if they so desire).
Looking to Christ's time of prayer in the desert for forty days, we join Him in our little "deserts" during Lent. I'm so excited to draw even closer to Christ in this coming season!!!
You may also be interested in the following blog posts I have written about Lent:
"I Don't Give Up Chocolate for Lent."
"Bertie Wooster and the Season of Lent."
"It's Not Too Early to Start Thinking About Lent!" over at Catholic 365.