History of Lent
What are the origins of Lent? Did the Church always have this time before Easter?
|Nevertheless, I was always taught, "If you gave something up for the Lord, tough it out. Don't act like a Pharisee looking for a loophole."|
40 ways to get most
out of Lent
Dr Marcellino D’
Ambrosio, Catholic Theologian and speaker
SUN, STORMS, WILDERNESS, DESERTS, AND SPIRITUALITY
Let's Do Lent - 40 guidelines
by Victor M. Parachin
Day 1: Begin with the three 'Rs'. On the very first day of Lent, Renew your commitment to spiritual disciplines; Reflect on your spiritual life over the preceding year; finally, Respond by taking corrective steps where there are deficiencies.
Day 2: Read Matthew 25:35-46. Study this teaching of Jesus carefully. In it Jesus reminds followers that all people are children of God; that each person we encounter is to be treated with consummate dignity, respect and love. This is especially true for those who are marginalized by society: the poor, the homeless, the incarcerated. "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me," Jesus said.
Day 3: Increase your acts of mercy. Here's a simple prayer to guide you on this path, "Dear God, give me merciful eyes so that I never judge by appearances, but see only what is beautiful in others; give me merciful ears which turn away from all gossip; give me a merciful tongue which offers words of praise and encouragement; give me merciful hands than I may reach out to the wounded with love; give me merciful feet which will walk toward those in need so that I may assist them."
Day 4: Offer arrow prayers. These are brief, once sentence prayers, offered throughout the day for different people and various matters - Be with this retail clerk. Lift my colleagues' spirits today. Bless my family. May I be a source of joy at work. May I handle this difficulty with calmness and kindness.
Day 5: Meditate. "Be still and know that I am God," writes the Psalmist (46:16). Meditation is the hallway which leads to a closer connect with God. Spiritual writer James Allen noted, "Jesus brooded upon the Divine Immanence until at last he could declare 'I and My Father are one'."
Day 6: Fast. In the past, many Christians practiced fasting during Lent. Restore this practice by going without meals one day. If that's too much, consider skipping just one meal. A gentle fast like this will refresh your memory that many people on the planet go hungry day after day. One fast day in Lent will serve as a reminder of the bounty you enjoy on a daily basis.
Day 7: Let nature be your spiritual director. "My profession is always to be alert, to find God in nature, to know God's lurking places, to attend all the oratorios and the operas in nature," wrote Henry David Thoreau.
Day 8: Identify a personal weakness. Write down one thing you'd like to change about yourself. Think about ways you could make that change during Lent. Of course, pray for the strength to do it.
Day 9: Identify a personal strength. On the other side of the same piece of paper listing your personal weakness, write down a personal strength. Think about ways you can increase that virtue and then put it into action throughout the Lenten season. It's always a good discipline to minimize a weakness and maximize a strength.
Day 10: Strive to be more like Job. This Old Testament man had virtues which more people need to model, "I rescued the poor who cried for help and the fatherless who had none to assist him. The man who was dying blessed me; I made the widow's heart sing... I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy. I took up the case of the stranger." (Job 29:12-16)
Day 11: Resist temptation. In Luke 4:1-2 it is reported that Jesus was "tempted by the devil" for forty days. Be like Jesus. Resist a temptation. Remember William Shakespeare's insight, "'Tis one thing to be tempted, Another thing to fall."
Day 12: Slow down. Quit rushing from task to task, from place to place, from person to person. Build pauses into your day to renew and revitalize your spirit. When you engage in a task, do it more slowly and more mindfully. When you are with a person, give that individual your undivided attention.
Day 13: Pray for people who irritate you. These are the ones you don't really like, the ones whose mere appearances annoy you. Pray for them to be blessed, to be happy, to be loved. You may be surprised how that kind of prayer changes you and your attitude toward the irritating people in your life.
Day 14: Focus on being more rather than having more. Spiritual adviser Billy Graham notes: "We are slaves to our gadgets, puppets of our power, and prisoners of our security. The theme of our generation is: 'Get more, know more, and do more' instead of 'Pray more, be more, and serve more'."
Day 15: Follow the advice of Saint Paul. In 1 Timothy 6:11-12, the apostle writes, "Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." Work at cultivating those qualities more and more in your life.
Day 16: Donate to the poor. Write a larger than normal check to a charitable group which serves the poor. As you write the check, pause to pray asking a special blessing upon those served by that organization. If you are not able financially to do this, then do an early spring cleaning of your closet and donate clothing you haven't worn recently to charity. As you pack those give away items, pause to pray that they will be a great joy and blessing to the recipients.
Day 17: Speak your love. Say "I love you" to family members. Then, spread your love by saying to someone outside of your family, "I love you." If you have love for them in your heart, bring that love onto your lips. Far too many people go through their entire lives not knowing they are loved by others. Do your part to let others know of your love for them.
Day 18: Mend little rips and tears in your relationships. That advice comes from Brenda Shoshanna, author of 365 Ways To Give Thanks. "Is there someone you haven't called back for a while? Or someone else with whom you never made that luncheon date, although you promised to do so? Have your been putting off a visit?" she asks. Shoshanna reminds people that "unfinished business in our relationships can become little rips and tears, making the fabric of the relationship less sturdy with time." The solution: mend those rips and tears by making overdue calls, scheduling the visit, arranging the lunch.
Day 19: Seek forgiveness. Speak to someone you've hurt, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and seek their forgiveness.
Day 20: Offer forgiveness. Think about an individual who has hurt or offended you. Simply forgive. You don't have to tell the person you've done this, but just forgive, let it go and move on.
Day 21: Examine your goals. Do they line up with your faith and values? Be certain your goals focus energies in a positive direction.
Day 22: Listen carefully... especially to someone who disagrees with you. Try to listen without reacting or judging what is being said to you. As you do this you'll discover that the issue becomes much clearer and cleaner.
Day 23: Apologize. "A sincere apology can have enormous power," writes Lewis Richmond in his book Work As A Spiritual Practice. "Can you think of opportunities in your workplace where an apology would help? It is human nature to imagine that your hurts are more in need of salving than others' wounds," he notes. Richmond reminds readers that an apology is not only healing but reveals personal strength and maturity. "To apologize means that you are strong enough to give something up, to move some positive energy out of your domain toward someone else."
Day 24: Focus on inner peace. "Keep peace within yourself, then you can also bring peace to others," said Thomas A Kempis. Let your thoughts, words and actions all evolve from a place of inner peace and tranquillity.
Day 25: Reflect on Daniel in the lion's den. The young man, Daniel, survived a night in the lion's den protected by the strength of his faith. Let yourself be inspired by Daniel's example. Have faith in God, do what is right, maintain courage to remain true to your values and ultimately all will be well for you.
Day 26: Smile more. And complain less! Meditate on these few lines from author unknown, "A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he cannot get along without it, and none is so poor that he cannot be made rich by it. Yet a smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give".
Day 27: Inspire yourself. Read an uplifting story. View a film which conveys spiritual depth. Study an inspiring passage of scared scripture.
Day 28: Be an angel. In biblical times, angels frequently appeared bringing good news. Be an angel carrying a good message to someone.
Day 29: Cultivate gentleness. Bradford Keeney, author of Everyday Soul, explains, "Gentleness values the softly spoken word, the tender touch, the warm embrace, and the kind, approving gesture. When we are in the presence of holy people, it is the power of their gentleness that moves us the most... It is their consideration of others that brings forth their fullest presence."
Day 30: Chart a new course. Ask yourself, "When was the last time I did something for the first time?"
Day 31: Walk on water. God always calls you beyond your abilities. Though it may seem that God is calling you to do the impossible, step out in faith. The walk of faith is nothing more than a call to walk on water.
Day 32: Ease the suffering of another person. Spend time with someone who is grieving or who is hospitalized or who has been wounded by life. Be fully present with compassion and love.
Day 33: Say grace. Before eating, pause to offer thanks for what you will enjoy. Express gratitude for the many workers it took to produce your meal - the farmer, the harvester, those who delivered the product to market, the grocer, the clerk who checked you out, etc. There is a Buddhist custom which acknowledges that it takes 72 labourers to produce one meal.
Day 34: Experience more joy. Author Sam Keen advises, "As you go through the day, become a spy in the kingdom of joy. Look for signs that strangers you meet are enjoying themselves, and actually or vicariously join them."
Day 35: Be willing to serve. "Have your tools ready; God will find you work," wrote Charles Kingsley.
Day 36: Keep your word. It's better to be viewed as hesitant, uncertain and indecisive than to make a promise or commitment and not keep it.
Day 37: Spend time alone. Here is wisdom from writer William Arthur Ward, "Practice the art of aloneness and you will discover the treasure of tranquillity. Develop the art of solitude and you will unearth the gift of serenity."
Day 39: Offset fear with faith. When intimidated recall and repeat these words of the psalm writer, "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid." (Psalm 118:6)
Day 40: Look beyond Lent. Think about and plan for ways that you will continue the spirit of Lent after Easter!