Let’s admit it – most of us will stumble at least once during the Lenten season. The good news is that it’s perfectly normal. After all, we’re human. For some of us who have lofty aspirations of “going big or going home” at the start of the season, we may end up feeling disappointed early on. We’re not expected to be perfect.
But we shouldn’t give up simply because we’ve overestimated our time and our to fulfill our Lenten goals.
Sometimes we can do small things that don’t seem like much, but it can do a world of good for not only ourselves but for others as well. With an emphasis on community, the Rule of St. Benedict can teach us how what we do, no matter how small it may be, can have good effects on everyone around us. Sometimes all it asks of us is to sacrifice a bit of our comfort, gifts, or time to make it happen.
Read more: What a Rule of Life Is and Why You Need One
Whether you’re looking for new ideas or are simply looking for new ways to help breathe new life into your Lenten goals, here are four tips that could help do just that, Benedictine-style.
Acts of service
Do you absolutely loathe doing a particular chore? Do it anyway and offer up the time spent doing it for the souls in purgatory. Want to start smaller? Whatever you need to do – but don’t feel like doing – can be offered up as a prayer and a sign of obedience to God. “God, I don’t feel like doing this, but I offer it up and I’ll endure it because I love You.”
If you want to go one step further, why not help someone in your community? If you know of someone who is overwhelmed with a certain task and know it’s something that could do to help lessen their burden, please don’t hesitate to offer your time and assistance. Even if they don’t take you up on it, the simple act of offering can help alleviate some of the emotional stress the person may be feeling.
Stop! Prayer time
Did you start the ambition to pray more often (e.g. the Rosary every day) but find yourself too busy to sit down and pray for long stretches of time? Break it down into parts if possible. If you can’t pray the entire Rosary in one sitting, you can try breaking it up into a decade every hour you’re at work.
If your hands are too busy to keep track, you can get yourself a copy of the Dominican Sisters of Mary’s The Rosary Mysteries, Meditations, & Music album or download an app (like the one by the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception) that has an automatic audio feature that will go through the entire Rosary without you have to worry about losing track of how many Hail Mary’s you have prayed for each decade.
Want to start smaller? Pray a Hail Mary for the person who is annoying you. Most of the time, people are in foul moods because they’re going through difficult times and a prayer sent their way can benefit them in ways that only God will know.
Host(ess) with the most(est)
Many of us have a social life, even during the Lenten season. If you know you will have guests over your place, treat them as if you were receiving Christ himself. Offer them the best foods and drink you’re able to, not just what you’ve purchased that you didn’t like and don’t want to throw away.
For extroverts, this may be easier to do but it’s hard for us introverts who crave our quiet time in our personal spaces. Introverts, for the penitential season, why not offer up the discomfort by going out of your way to greet and make your guests feel right at home? Try to refrain from dropping hints that they should leave. Extroverts, you may love talking and coming up with topics to chat about but why not let your guest lead the conversation? Try doing this with your next guest.
It may not seem like much, but it could do a lot of good for the other person, especially if they were in need of good company after a long day. And, hey, all you had to sacrifice was your time. . . and maybe your best foods.
Pick a virtue
Do you know the four human (cardinal) virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance? How about the three theological virtues of hope, faith, and charity? If you don’t know them or need a reminder, look them up and pick one to try to work on for the rest of the Lenten season; the one you (and others) would benefit most from.
Are you a bit impatient? Choose the cardinal virtue of fortitude and work on becoming more patient with not only others but yourself as well. Pray that you get the strength to keep yourself from snapping at someone or something when it doesn’t go the way you have planned. Are you or someone you know prone to despair easily, especially during times of hardship? Pray for the theological virtue of hope. Working or praying for one virtue will help strengthen the other virtues will help you beyond this Lenten season.
According to St. Benedict, the Rule was not meant to be “harsh” nor “burdensome.” If you find that you can’t keep up your Lenten goal every day, give yourself the goal of doing it as many times as you can. The idea is not to try to stretch yourself too thin or get down on yourself if you can’t do it every day. Give it your best try and if you don’t succeed, dust it off and try again.