Lent is almost upon us and we will all need the encouragement to stick to our commitments. To that end, I’ve assembled a ‘bucket list’ of sorts, 5 ways to prepare for the Lenten season.
1. Eat King Cake
What was once a predominantly southern tradition has now spread across the land and gone on to become a staple in the pre-Lenten rituals of Catholics everywhere! Historically, “king cake season” kicks off on Twelfth Night, or the Eve of the Epiphany Feast Day, and lasts until Mardi Gras. This delicious cinnamon-filled, sugar-coated ring of dough has become a thriving industry among bakers. The way in which we find ourselves purchasing these treats is reminiscent of the toy store lines leading up to Christmas day. Surely, this indulgence reveals the more gluttonous side of the faithful but we’re about to fast for 40 days. Can you blame us?
2. Locate Nearby Seafood Establishments
Every Catholic knows that there is at least one thing for certain when it comes to Lent: No Meat on Fridays. The origin of this practice is often attributed to many different sources. Mark Hart once wrote, “When I go through the incredibly minor act of abstaining from meat on Fridays, it is just one tiny act of self-sacrifice that points me back to that awful but Good Friday.” In a way, we are acknowledging that the Body of Christ is enough to sustain us for abstinence such as this. Luckily, seafood is still on the menu and typically becomes our go-to meal option on Fridays. Surely you could go the vegan route or forego mealtime altogether. But… if you aren’t quite prepared to take it to such extremes: pull out your phone, type in seafood on your Yelp app, and bookmark it. You’re gonna need it!
3. Clean House
Ok, this list item carries a double meaning. As we have already mentioned: you’re going to be fasting. It might help to rid your surroundings of all temptations, giving up anything that is a comfort to you for 40 days is no easy task. Do yourself a favor and put away anything that might cause you to stumble.
The second meaning for this list item is quite honestly, the one that really matters. Before Lent begins we should take time to examine our conscience and take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I’ve made it a point in my life to partake in this sacrament a bit more frequently. It’s gotten to a point that when I fall short (in what I have done or failed to do) I feel like I am living in a dirty home. Reconciliation is the remedy, it cleans out the home and keeps me from becoming buried alive (hoarders pun, sorry). Read more here.
4. Face the Fast
Towards the bottom of this list you will have arrived at the pivotal moment that calls for you to make a decision regarding your fast. What earthly pleasure will you give up? What spiritual practice will you take on in its place? These questions come back to us each and every year. What we need to consider (and Confession helps with this) is what we are struggling with in our spiritual life. What is keeping you from a deeper, more intimate encounter with Christ? What sin are you bringing back to the confessional every time you go? Chances are, what you need to ‘give up’ is closely related to whatever your spiritual struggle may be. Fast a distraction. Fast a stumbling block. Fast so that you might grow closer to God.
5. Be Faithful
Similar to New Year’s resolutions, maintaining a lifestyle of abstinence for the duration of Lent can be challenging. Take comfort in the fact that it is meant to be challenging. In fact, it should worry you if you hardly notice that [whatever you are abstaining from] is missing. Many Lenten homilies will compare this season to Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. Jesus was tempted and withstood all temptation like a boss. (are people still saying that?) These 40 days give us an opportunity to mature in our faith; to become less so that Christ might become more.
“I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2 (NABRE)