February 24, 2014

Looking for a Lenten Penance?


Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 1438: "The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. These times 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)."


Still giving up the three C's for Lent? (coke, coffee, and chocolate) Let me guess: great for your waistline, but never really helps you in your relationship with Christ. Most adult Catholics still pilgrim through the sacred season of Lent with the penances they adopted as children. They fast from their indulgences, only to return to them at Easter (and eventually add the weight they lost during Lent).

Well ... "if you always do what you've always done you'll always get what you always got." Don't you want more?

Lent is a time of renewal. It's a time for deepened relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. It's a time where you as an adult are able to look in the mirror as an adult and adopt spiritual exercises for adults.

However, many Catholics need help discerning what to do for Lent. Here are ten things to think about. Pick one ... and ask God to make this the Lent your best ever.

  1. Daily Mass. It would great to make daily Mass everyday, Monday through Friday. Let's shoot for that. However, if everyday can't work, shoot for three days a week for starters. There are tons of Masses in the Thibodaux area this Lent. Click here to find a daily Mass in the Thibodaux area. If you live outside of Thibodaux, call you parish and ask them for a list of daily Masses your area. You may be thinking that you don't have time for daily Mass. However, re-think your time. Maybe it's time to start leaving work on time. Maybe it's time to get up early. Maybe it's the year to "fast" from lunch a few days a week. You've got the time, it's time to ask God where and how to go to daily Mass.
  2. Daily Prayer. There are a ton of great Lenten resources and reflections that can help you pray through Lent. Click here to find out the one's I recommend. Whatever you choose, make a commitment to being committed: pray 20 minutes every day during Lent.
  3. Learn how to pray. One of the things that prevents most Catholics from sustaining a Lenten penance of daily prayer is the humble admitting that most adults don't know how to pray. When we were kids we learned how to "say our prayers." Well, that worked when you were a kid. But, adult-sized problems aren't solved with kid-sized prayers. If you're looking to learn how to pray, check our Oremus: A Guide to Catholic PrayerClick here for a few samples. Click here to order.
  4. The Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pope Francis' most recent teaching on Wednesday, February 19 focused on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If you haven't read it, it's a gem: click here to read the text. This Lent, try going to Confession regularly ... maybe even once a week! Sounds crazy, I know. However, if we first learn "how" to really go to Confession then we'll grow leaps and bounds by adding the gift of Reconciliation to our spiritual exercise. Click here for resources that will you re-think the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Click here for an Examination of Conscience.
  5. Focus on one sin. None of us are perfect. In fact, when many of us look at our litany of habitual sin we can get overwhelmed and wonder: "Where do I start?" Here's my encouragement: let go of your pursuit of perfection. Focus on one sin. Focus on your most predominant sin. Focus on your most repetitive sin. Be an adult: focus on your biggest sin ... the one you don't like to admit or talk about. This is where weekly Confession is your best friend. Even if you keep reporting the same sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, keep going. The advice from your Confessor will help you learn more about the pattern. Plus, click here and scroll down to the talk I recording for IPF and the USCCB. The talk, and the accompanying handout underneath the talk, may help.
  6. Balance. This one might seem to be a surprise at number six on my top ten; however, for professional adults nothing will impact your life more than allowing God to order your life. Tell me if you've ever thought this: "I wish I had more time for my marriage." "I wish I had more time for my family." "I don't have enough time." If you've ever thought those thoughts join the rest of human race. This Lent make a commitment to read one of these two books: When Work and Family Collide by Andy Stanley or Off Balance by Matthew Kelly.
  7. Fast. Fasting is a gift. In dying to what our cravings crave we master our compulsions and grow in freedom. Click here for a great blog on the "how" and "why" of fasting. That being said ... I encourage you to really pray about fasting ... perhaps it's time to notch it up a bit.
  8. Almsgiving. Like fasting, almsgiving is one of those things that has really fallen into a surficial understanding. Luckily, Pope Francis has captured the world's imagination with his integrity and witness.  Click here for a great blog on the "how" and "why" of almsgiving. 
  9. Volunteer. I've heard it said that love is often spelled "T-I-M-E". Often times that's true. We in the West cherish nothing more than time. We spend to save time. We rush to save time. Yet, none of us have the time we long for. This is where the sprite of Lent hits us in the heart. Instead of clinging to ourselves and trying to save for us, spend some time serving others. Call your church parish. Call your favorite charity. Call somebody. Commit to serving others once a week this Lent.
  10. Pope Francis. Papa Francisco ... what a gift he is. This Lent, let the Holy Father be your pilgrimage director. Learn about him. Enter into his mind. Swim in his heart. Read what he says ... not what the media says he says. Click here for Pope Francis' 2014 Lenten Message. Click here to see what the Holy Father says each day. Click here for Pope Francis' daily Mass homilies.