I love the season of Lent. It is the perfect time to get one’s life in order. It is the perfect season to reflect upon our relationship with God in an even deeper way than usual. We have many disciplines to help us, especially the practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. To be clear, it is important that we pray at all times and in all seasons, not just in Lent. Likewise, it is good for us to fast and habitually practice small mortifications, small penances, small acts of loving reparation, throughout our lives even outside of Lent (and outside of Fridays throughout the year). And, it’s never a bad time to give alms; “now” is always the perfect time. But in Lent, the Church lays a special emphasis on these practices to help us through our desert journey. In Lent, we travel with Jesus (and with all of the saints who have gone before us) into the wilderness, toward the joy which Easter brings.
And so, we begin our Lenten pilgrimage. My prayer is that we exit Lent changed people; that when Easter comes, we will be more closely united to Christ than ever before. If you haven’t read it yet, I would highly recommend prayerfully reading over Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for Lent this 2011. It is a moving letter, with many insights so beautifully written. The text may be accessed online at the Vatican website, here: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20101104_lent-2011_en.html.
Three other things I would like to emphasize for your consideration this Lent:
(1) Go on a retreat. I think it is a good practice to go on a retreat once a year, and Lent is a perfect season for a retreat.
(2) Meditate deeply on Scripture. If Scripture reading is not a regular practice in your life, then there is no better time to start than now. Why don’t you make a Lenten resolution to spend just 5 minutes a day prayerfully immersing yourself in Scripture. I’d recommend taking up one of the Gospels. I have always been fond of the method recommended by St. Josemaría Escrivá: “If you wish to get close to our Lord through the pages of the Gospels, I always recommend that you try to enter in on the scene, taking part as just one more person there.”1
(3) read a book for spiritual reading, perhaps only a few minutes (5 or 10) a day. A great one, if you haven’t already read it, is Scott Hahn’s Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and their Biblical Roots, available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Signs-Life-Catholic-Customs-Biblical/dp/0385519494/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1299642080&sr=1-1.