By Fr. Joseph Sia
Planning for a journey is crucial for its success. If we prepare well before embarking on a journey, then we are more likely to enjoy the experience and feel satisfied upon reaching our destination. On the other hand, if we don’t prepare, then we might end up frustrated and feeling like it was a waste of time.
As Christians, we are about to embark on a journey together. Lent begins March 1, and it will be a 40-day sojourn that will hopefully lead us to a place closer to God. Let us take some time to prepare for our Lenten journey so that we can reap the most benefit from this special time in our church calendar. Many Catholics usually think about giving up something for Lent, such as chocolate, beer or something else. Allow me to suggest a few other ways to help us prepare to practice the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent:
Mark your calendar with the special liturgies of Lent, and plan on attending them. Your parish most probably will offer opportunities for the Stations of the Cross, confession or penance service, Ash Wednesday Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Holy Week liturgies, the Easter Vigil, and of course Easter Sunday Mass. This year, the Diocesan Chrism Mass will be on April 3. If you have not been to a Chrism Mass, perhaps this year you will want to attend one.
Think of someone that you would like to invite to attend these special liturgies with you. It may be a family member, a friend or a co-worker. This is one way we can live out our purpose of evangelization.
Also mark on your calendar the days of fasting and abstinence. If you have a Catholic calendar, the days of abstinence are usually imprinted with a drawing of a fish. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting as well. Many times we forget these practices if we don’t make a mental and written note of them. If we prepare in advance, the chances of us remembering will be much greater.
Decide on a method of almsgiving that you would like to practice this Lent. Make it a truly sacrificial giving; i.e. give not simply what is excess, but challenge yourself to give until it hurts. Ask for God’s guidance as to how much you are to give, and pray for the wonderful grace of trusting in God’s providence.
Think of a spiritual book (or books) that you can read over the 40 days of Lent. Spiritual reading is a good way to help us appreciate even more the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.
These are but a few suggestions on how to prepare for Lent. I hope that you are as excited as I am to embark on this journey, and I pray that this year Lent will be a meaningful and life-changing experience for you and your loved ones.
(Father Joseph Sia is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Columbus Junction and sacramental minister at St. Joseph Parish in West Liberty.)