Lent: Beyond the Cliché
By: Andrea Beyke
Lent is a season in the Church that is part of a whole year of liturgical seasons; these seasons allow us to experience Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection by associating our lives with different parts of his. During Lent, we take the time to repent, like Jesus did in the desert. Repent seems like such an awful word – as though we’ve done something awful and we have to feel bad about it. That’s not the whole story. Repent simply means “to turn.” To repent during Lent means to do things that turn us back to God, aligning our lives with Jesus’ so we can prepare ourselves to celebrate the greatest feast: the Resurrection. As we approach Ash Wednesday, think about what you can do to turn to God. Challenge yourself this year, and go beyond the clichés of “giving up” something. Now is a great time to take stock of your spiritual life, and to grow in it.
Below are a few suggestions for this Lent:
1) Spread the Love. Take a few minutes each day and write a note full of kind words to a friend or acquaintance. It will make his/her day!
2) Make a commitment to reading the Sunday readings before you go to Mass. In the same way that reading up on football players, opposing teams, and coaching strategies will help you experience a game more fully, familiarizing yourself with the readings ahead of time can allow you to experience them in a deeper way on Sunday. (Find the Sunday readings here.)
3) Don’t have time to read all three readings? Then just read the Gospel.
4) Make a commitment to trying something new spiritually. Never tried an hour of Eucharistic adoration? Find a parish where you can try it. Never attended Mass at a parish of an ethnic group that’s different than yours? Give it a try. Wondered what Taize prayer is? Join the Sisters on March 10th at 7:00 in the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
5) Think about what you usually spend your money on. Do you buy a few too many clothes? Spend a few too many bucks on iTunes? Eating out? Pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and give the money you would usually spend to a great local charity…or put it in your CRS Rice Bowl. Get your Rice Bowl at SMWC’s Ash Wednesday service or in the Campus Ministry office. There will also be some available in Sacred Heart Chapel.
6) Go to a weekday Mass one day during the week. The Sisters of Providence offer Daily Mass at 11:30 in the Church of Immaculate Conception, and SMWC Campus Ministry offers a Wednesday Night Worship at 7:30 in Sacred Heart Chapel. Daily Masses are often more intimate and informal than Sunday Mass.
7) Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life, and the cross, a central Lenten symbol, plays an even more prominent role than in the other Gospels.
8) Attend the Stations of the Cross somewhere — SMWC Campus Ministry will offer a “Stations on Location” around the city during Lent. Stay tuned for day and time!
9) Turn off your iPod or your car radio on your commute or don’t walk to class with earphones. The silence may be jarring at first, but you may find that you are able to concentrate better and will be more observant of your surroundings.
10) Buy a book of daily reflections (or borrow one from your campus minister) and keep it by your bed. Local parishes often offer these for purchase during Lent, and there are some good ones available online.
11) Think about a habit that has kept you from being whom God is calling you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.
12) Make a commitment to “fast” from cruel comments about others. So, no gossiping or reading celebrity tabloids.
13) As a part of your Lenten almsgiving, make a point to learn as much about a particular social issue (immigration, human trafficking, racism, AIDS victims, child poverty) as possible. Give money to an organization, related to your chosen issue that supports the dignity of the human person.
14) Pray for somebody. As you’re walking across campus, driving home, sitting at your desk, or going to a movie, pick out a person who appears to be in need, and pray for that person. Be mindful of the words of Philo of Alexandria, who said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”
15) Read the Works of Mercy as Jesus describes them in Matthew 25. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…in prison and you visited me.” There are plenty of opportunities available in your own community to put this teaching into practice. Choose an act of service you can perform throughout Lent.
16) Make a list of all the excesses in your life. Think about which ones you could do without.
17) Journal each night about the blessings of the day.
18) Wake up 5 minutes earlier in the morning to say your prayers.
19) Make an effort to call your parents/caregivers/grandparents more often. They love to hear from you!
20) Connect with someone new each day. Take the time to start a conversation with someone you don’t normally talk to.