I don’t know about everybody, but it seems like Lent sneaks up every single year. Even if I start to plan a week or two in advance, sometimes it’s not enough time. Work, taxes, and other responsibilities make it easy to say, “Oh, I have enough time”, until you’re rushing to get things done before Ash Wednesday—or backtracking because Lent already started! Does this scenario sound familiar? If so, you’re not alone.
Now is the perfect time to start your prep work if you want to have an excellent Lenten experience. Need ideas on what you can do to prepare and be ready on time? Here are five tips that will help you start the season off right.
Purchase your Lenten reading ahead of time
This is one is for all my fellow bookworms. Get your Lenten meditation books ahead of time! Just recently, I was looking at the book on consecrating oneself to St. Joseph (which would be needed during Lent if you plan on finishing on his March 19 feast day) and saw that Amazon was currently sold out. Nooo!
Similarly, there are many books for the Lenten season that are sold out at least a week or two before the start of the season. If you have had your eye on one, purchase it as soon as you can. Don’t stress yourself over getting a copy immediately, but consider getting it within two weeks prior to Lent so you get your copy before they get sold out.
Take a realistic look at your calendar when considering Lenten events and activities
Time management is hard for many of us in general. When we try to live a more liturgically-inspired life, we may want to do it all but don’t always have the time. Want to get out of the usual fast-food restaurant fish sandwich train? Look up meatless meal recipes and make meal plans ahead of time to make sure you can stay on top of things on busy days of abstinence. If you want to participate in your parish’s weekly Stations of the Cross or attend a fish fry, make sure you carve out the time to do so. If there are other activities you plan to do—such as adding a charitable act or an extra daily Mass—during Lent, look at your calendar ahead of time and be realistic. Don’t spread yourself thin trying to do I all. As odd as it sounds, Lenten burnout is real.
Make a Holy Hour and/or talk to a spiritual director BEFORE Lent
Let’s be honest, most of us pick the bare minimum penances to do during Lent. It could be because you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities or because, well, you figure you’ve already had a difficult year.
Instead of trying to do everything (I see you, fellow liturgical nerds) or pick something everyone else is doing, why not try to pick one personal thing that will be meaningful? Sit down and talk to your spiritual director (or a priest or nun you know and trust) and ask for advice on how to make the most out of the season. Similarly, you can also do a Holy Hour and ask God to place in your heart what he thinks would be the best and most spiritually fulfilling penances and/or activities. You can’t go wrong going straight to the top.
“Test drive” a new daily devotion before the season
Is there a specific prayer you’re interested in learning about and/or doing? Do your research ahead of time and then incorporate it into your daily prayer routine. It doesn’t even have to be something completely new; you can take up a decade of the Rosary (if you’re not already praying it regularly), a specific chaplet, or a litany to add to your daily prayers. Have time to get to a daily Mass at least once a week, besides Sunday? Consider doing that. You can even give it a “test drive” ahead of time to make sure you’ll have the time to keep it up during Lent.
Find an accountability prayer partner
Raise your hand if you’ve ever said, “I’m going to give up x (and/or y and/or z)…” and then you fail because, as they say, it’s easy to fall off the wagon. Be honest. Most of us have fallen to these temptations to find loopholes to cheat on your Lenten penances.
Want to get the most out of this Lenten season? Get you’re an accountability prayer partner ahead of time. Even if you’re both busy and can only check in once a week, to see you’re doing, I highly recommend doing it. The more you are comfortable and trust them, the easier it’ll be to ‘fess up when you’ve fallen short. If you find someone who will (good-humoredly) tease you a bit or who you know will say the right words to motivate you to stay on track, even better.
Of course, there are a number of other things you can do, such as purchase purple cloth to cover your saint statues, crucifixes, and religious artwork during Holy Week. The key is to plan ahead and plan smartly so that you have the best and most fruitful Lenten season to date.
Let the countdown to Lent begin and don’t let it catch you by surprise this year!
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