What will you do during Lent this year?
Will you fast from certain food and drink? Build in more prayer than usual? Make more donations of money, time, or talent? Attend Mass more often? Use a special Lenten devotional book for your prayer time?
Although the basic activities of Lent stay constant in Church Tradition—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—our lives move and our interior landscapes shift from one year to the next. God knows that we experience change and that the “best” Lenten practice for us one year may not be what our soul most needs another year.
So, let’s do some discerning around this topic. How can we choose our activities or practices for this Lenten season? We can apply some Ignatian wisdom by asking questions such as the following.
What are my deep desires right now? Would Lent be a good season in which to pray those desires? Our truest desires are usually God’s desires speaking in us. But true desires can become hidden under layers of false desires or superficial wants. Lent can give us the opportunity to focus on desires and talk with God about them, to learn where our deep desire meets God’s purposes for our life and the world.
In what area of my life am I experiencing a lack of spiritual freedom? Where am I clinging to something or trying to force an outcome? In what area has fear or pride or simple ego compelled my thoughts, words, and actions? Dealing forthrightly with unfreedom can be quite an effective form of penance, because we are admitting where we have gone off course, we spend time in prayer identifying why we are not free, and we seek to renew our trust in God and thus loosen our grip on a specific area of life.
How am I participating in God’s kingdom? How am I working with Christ, following the direction of the Holy Spirit, and helping fulfill the Creator’s dream for this world? Lent can be the perfect time to “praydream,” as Jesuit Mark E. Thibodeaux puts it. Daydream prayerfully about how your circumstances, opportunities, interests, and gifts can better contribute to God’s kingdom on earth.