The beginning of Lent is almost upon us. And while it may seem that you just took down your Christmas tree, before you know it, it will be Ash Wednesday.
Lent is time for prayer, fasting and alms-giving. It’s time to take a look at how we’re doing spiritually and make changes so that we can grow closer to God. But that can be a hard task to go at alone. Want to make this your holiest Lent ever? Father William Casey’s latest book, Making a Holy Lent can help tackle areas in our life where we need to grow.
The reflections are based off of a Lenten retreat that Father Casey gave years ago to viewers of EWTN. Father Casey spends seven chapters covering seven Catholic topics. Here are the seven things you should focus on in your spiritual life to make this your holiest Lent yet:
During Lent, the Catholic Church invites us to strengthen our relationship with God through prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Father Casey focuses on prayer for the first mediation of his Lenten retreat.
“I’ve compiled this book – this written retreat – with one purpose in mind,” writes Father Casey, “To challenge you to answer the call that God has given to each and every one of you to be men and women of faith, prayer, and devotion.” He points to prayer as the answer to our unstable culture, encouraging spiritual revival in the hearts of Christians everywhere.
2. The Catholic Church
“Wherever I go, I find that more and more Catholics, especially young Catholics, don’t seem to have any idea about what it means to be Catholic,” Father Casey reflects. “No idea what the Catholic Church is or what She’s about or where She came from, and no idea what sets Her apart from other religious institutions. This has made younger Catholics, many of whom don’t even know the basics of their Faith, easy prey both for fundamentalists sects who peddle simplistic and false interpretations of the Bible and for the secular, materialistic, pagan culture which we live in.”
Father Casey’s reflection begins by discussing the history of the early Catholic Church. He encourages those on retreat to strive to be more like the Apostles, believing that the Lord will never abandon us, even in times of desolation.
Read more: What Should You Give Up For Lent?
3. Real presence
“If someone were to ask me what I think is the biggest single problem facing the Catholic Church today, I would answer without any hesitation that it is the widespread loss of faith in Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament,” Father Casey writes.
In this chapter of meditation, he speaks to the heart of what it means to be Catholic – to believe that Christ is truly present in the sacrament of the Eucharist. He reflects on the sixth chapter of John, delving into what the words of Christ really mean when He said “this is my body and this is my blood”.
Lent is a time of repentance for the Catholic Church. For the past few weeks, we’ve heard about how John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord by urging those around him to straighten the path to their hearts for the Lord to walk upon. For those struggling with going to confession, Father Casey says that confession is a way we can grow closer to God, know and love God better, and increase our desire for our prayer life.
He urges those making the retreat to pray: “Lord, let there be less of me and more of You. Let me say no to my will and yes to Yours. God, give me the grace to love You more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today.”
Read more: 40 Facts You Wished Everyone Knew About Lent
5. Charity and chastity
The theme of repentance throughout Lent means that we must discuss the reality of what sin does to our souls. “When we talk about sin, we must talk about the Ten Commandments,” writes Father Casey. “And we should always talk about the Ten Commandments in the context of the virtue of charity – the true meaning of Christian love.”
Love is the most misused word in the English language. We say that we love those closest to us, but we also love hamburgers, cars, clothes, and ice cream. Father Casey devotes an entire week of reflection to a truer understanding of the virtues of charity and chastity, and how to truly love God.
6. Pride and humility
“When we examine our consciences and look back on our experience, invariably we see that many of our worst moments and bitter regrets can be traced back to our foolish pride,” writes Father Casey. “We all know it’s true. Pride is the greatest destroyer of marriages, the stumbling block to holiness, the obstacle to grace and repentance, the mental block to forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation.”
The antidote to the evils of Pride is humility. Father Casey spends the week reflecting on how to overcome pride in our spiritual lives by embracing humility and sanctity.
Read more: 7 Stages of My Facebook-Free Lent
7. The Blessed Mother
Father Casey devotes the last week of mediation to a devotion that every Christian should have – a devotion for the Blessed Mother. “The greatest event in the history of the world – the Incarnation – takes place in Mary’s virginal womb,” he writes. “Her mission, given to her by God, is to bring Jesus Christ into our world and into our lives, leading us always closer to Her son.”
Father Casey examines the role Mary played throughout salvation history. He clarifies why Catholics do not worship Mary, and gives a simple formula for the spiritual life – The Holy Spirit plus Mary brings forth Jesus Christ!
Reading and praying over just one chapter of Father Casey’s new book will bring you from Ash Wednesday to the joyful celebration of Easter – with these reflections, you can make this Lent the holiest Lent you’ve ever had.
You can find Father Casey’s book, Making a Holy Lent: 40 Meditations to Prepare You for the Church’s Holiest Season at your local Catholic bookstore or online here!