As you can see, I'm not very good at this "Lent" thing.
This year, the Lenten season has taken me completely by surprise. Despite the fact that Easter is way later this year, I haven't taken advantage of that extra time to prepare myself...at all. So here I am, the day before Ash Wednesday, compiling a haphazard list of possible sacrifices and practices for the next 40-ish days that I will probably end up dropping by day 12. Maybe I should give up self-deprecation? Hmmm...
So what should I give up? Usually I give up coffee as my material sacrifice, but I used to be much more of a caffeine addict than I am now. We're talking 4-6 cups a day! Now I'm down to 1-2 a week. So that wouldn't be much of a sacrifice now.
I've heard some say that instead of giving something up, one should take up a new (preferably good) habit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1438:
The seasons and days of penance...are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).And, from the Pocket Catholic Dictionary:
Its purpose is to better prepare the faithful for the feast of the Resurrection, and dispose them for a more fruitful reception of the graces that Christ merited by his passion and death.Ah, so the season of Lent is in the business of spiritual purification. So giving things up and adopting new habits are both in keeping with the spirit of Lent. Instead of an either/or mentality, however, I think it would be a good idea to purge a bad habit (swearing, let's say) and replace it with a good one (using the selfsame gift of speech to pray, for example). For me that would mean that whenever I feel the urge to use a profanity, I would replace it with a prayer for patience (my use of profanity is pretty much restricted to instances of anger or impatience). It....could....WORK! (Young Frankenstein, anyone? No? Nevermind...)
Now I know some would say: "But profanity is something you should avoid all the time, not just during Lent!" True, and I know that Lenten observations shouldn't take the form of New Years resolutions. But, let's be honest, we all use this time of year to try and make ourselves better. After all, Lent is prime time for conversion. It originated as a time of purification for those entering the Church that year. Over time, the congregation joined them in their preparations, readying themselves to renew their own baptismal promises at Easter. A big part of our baptismal promises was the renunciation of sin. So as part of my preparations to renew my baptismal promises, I hope to rid myself of my attachment to this particular sin. Self-justification complete.
I was also thinking of picking up St. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises and incorporating them, to some extent, into my daily prayer life (or lack thereof). I'm afraid if I try to do too much too fast I'll end up doing none of it, so I'll focus on the Daily Examen.
And in the spirit of self-denial, I'll probably give up Facebook, like the rest of the Catholic world. It might free up more of my time to write blog posts! One can only hope...
Now at least I have some semblance of a plan going into Ash Wednesday. Let's hope (and pray!) I can stick with it this year!
Check out these FAQs About Lent over at Catholic Online. It explains the connection between Lent and Baptism.
Also, my darling husband has posted some resources for Ash Wednesday and Lent that are worth looking at.