Parish Blog

Making the Lenten Experience Unique

As we commence the season of Lent once again it can be both easy and difficult to enter the holy season. It’s easy because we’ve done it before; it’s hard because we wonder how it is any different from last year. The traditional tenants of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving seem easy on paper, but difficult to live out in our everyday life. How can you make this Lent special besides just giving up chocolate? Here’s some ideas using the three tenants of Lent as a basis:

Prayer: We have a lot of things in our life that need prayer. Family, friends, the world, and our city (say some extra prayers!). This Lent, make a prayer list. Every Sunday take 10 minutes and write down the things you want to lift in prayer that week. It will help your prayer be focused and come Holy Week you’ll be surprised at how many people and how many situations you’ve lifted in prayer to God.

Fasting: The perennial question: What should I give up for Lent? Lots of people give up chocolate, sweets, alcohol or something else for Lent and that’s great! But if you’ve done that for the past five years and you’re feeling bored with it you can always change it up. Don’t be afraid to give up new things; don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Almsgiving: This is can relate to your fasting. Let’s say you go our every Friday night with your friends and you spend on average of $60 each time you go out. A Lenten practice could be to abstain from spending the money that you would normally spend on drinks and donate the money to Catholic Relief Services or Catholic Charities. You’ll be surprised at how much money you end up giving to help those most in need.

This Lent, allow yourself to dive more deeply into the mysteries of the season and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.

Fr. Michael Trail is the associate pastor of St. Damian Catholic Church in Oak Forest.

Twitter: @FrMichaelTrail

Celebrating Ash Wednesday

Fr. Matt O'Donnell is the Pastor of St. Columbanus Church. His Twitter handle is @FrMattODonnell

Fr. Matt O'Donnell is the Pastor of St. Columbanus Church. His Twitter handle is @FrMattODonnell

Today Christians around the world celebrate Ash Wednesday. It is a holy and sacred day that begins the season of Lent. Too often we think of Lent as a time to give things up, but this way of thinking doesn’t capture the true purpose of Lent. Lent is a time of preparation; it is a season of getting ready for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On this Ash Wednesday we hear the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of the Cross. What we remember today is that we are created by God. It is God who formed us and fashioned us, it is God who breathed life into the first human person. It is God who breathes life into you and me. We reflect on the fact that there will come a day when our earthly bodies will return to the dust from which we were once formed. This day recalls what we hear in the first chapters of Genesis.

It might seem that all of this is just a reflection on our mortality. This talk of returning to dust might seem like a strange way to begin this season. How often do we stop to reflect on the fact that we are created? Have you taken the time to think deeply about what it means to be created in God’s own image and likeness? God is the creator of all that exists and we are so intimately connected to the created world around us. Ash Wednesday helps us focus on our origins.

So, why celebrate Lent? During these sacred days you can be reminded of God’s unconditional love! By entering completely and totally into these 40 days you can grow in your relationship with God. These days afford you an opportunity to reflect more deeply on what makes you human.

The practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us journey more deeply in our relationship with God. I encourage you to use this season of Lent to grow in your relationship with God! Let this Lent be different! Let this Lent change you! Let this Lent be a time of increased faith!