It’s Ash Wednesday, Lent has begun, and I am so excited!! I love Lent; this liturgical season of intense prayer and penance is an incredible time to meditate on Christ in the desert (Lk 4:1-13). Furthermore, we reflect on the sufferings, Passion, and death of the Lord. There are so many elements that I look forward to each year, and today, I’d like to share a few of my favorite Lenten devotions and resources with you!
|This post is part of an occasional series where I discuss the|
epicness of the Liturgical Year, and how
we can incorporate it into our daily lives.
The Stations of the Cross
For hundreds of years (ever since the Middle Ages), Christians have been praying the Stations of the Cross as they reflect on the account of Christ’s Passion in Scripture. Many parishes pray the Stations each Friday, and at our church, this is followed by a simple supper. When I’m not praying the Stations at my parish using their booklets, I love to pray using the prayers offered out by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception: St. Faustina's Way of the Cross. These meditations, which include verses from Scripture and sections from the Diary of St. Maria Faustina, are incredibly moving, and I cannot recommend them enough. You can find them online here.
Simplicity and Somberness in Churches and Homes
During Lent, our parishes are made simple. Floral arrangements around the altar are removed, the Alleluia and Gloria are absent from the Liturgy, and the musical selections are more muted. Churches seem more quiet and reflective as the simplicity permeates the atmosphere. Many Catholics seek to model their homes on the more restrained mood of the parishes. In making simpler meals, decluttering, and spending less time using non-essential electronics and social media, people use different methods to instill in their homes a deeper spirit of silence and prayer.
Fasting and Penance
While the thought of fasting (taking one full meal with two smaller meals that equal less than the full meal) and voluntary penance can cause many groans and grimaces, these are both powerful practices which I have grown to love. Now that I am breastfeeding an infant for a large part of each day, I cannot fast in the way that other people can, but I still make an effort to eat a little less and offer penances. As we sacrifice and restrain ourselves from feasting on whatever food we desire, we unite ourselves to Christ in His sufferings and also grow in self-mastery.
I’ve found that there are many awesome resources out there for Lent, which is fantastic. Yet, as much as I’d love to be able to use every wonderful devotion, Lenten journal, and book out there, that’s not possible or prudent. Instead of overloading myself and crowding my mind, I just focus on a few simple things. I try to make my Lenten practices simple and doable, but challenging, and I focus on one practice each for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Aside from those, I make an intentional effort to read and reflect more on the Passion. Some of my favorite resources for doing this are the Bible (particularly the Passion narratives in the Gospels) and The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Anne Catherine Emmerich (available on Project Gutenberg here). I also really like meditating on the Sorrows of Mary (you can find directions on praying the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows here).
I hope that you all have a beautiful start to Lent!