Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of our 40-day pilgrimage to Easter–the Resurrection of Jesus and our own small resurrection to a new and deeper Christian life.
The first act is to receive the ashes on your forehead (or on top of your head, as in Italy), made from last year\’s palms, to remind us of our mortality, frailty, and dependence upon God.
Lent is a special liturgical season of discipline, purification, self-sacrifice, to help us grow in holiness and union with God, to grow in love and patience and generosity with everyone we meet.
As you begin this Lent, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. The 3 Great Works of Lent are Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving, taken from our Jewish roots. It is best to do one practice from each category: prayer, fasting or self-denial, almsgiving or mercy. Below are a few suggestions of practices you can choose from, or ask the Lord for special ones.
- Say a morning offering first thing in the morning (even before getting out of bed).
- Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet every day.
- Read a chapter or two of Scripture each day and try to memorize a verse (repeat it throughout the day).
- Go to daily Mass, if possible.
- Add 10 minutes of silent prayer to your day.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross each Friday.
- Pray the rosary each day.
- Pray for each person with whom you come in contact.
- Spend 10 minutes prayerfully thinking about the Scriptures for the day\’s Mass.
- Give up TV and movies, including online.
Give up salt, pepper, and condiments.
Give up eating between meals.
Give up social media.
Avoid phone use after 8 p.m.
Only get news from a printed source.
Give up listening to recorded music.
Give up taking pictures.
Give up the snooze button.
- Serve the poor once a week at a soup kitchen.
- Give away some of your nice clothes to those in need.
- Donate 10% of your income to the poor.
- Write one letter of gratitude to a different person each day.
- Give kind attention to one lonely or isolated person each day.
- Whenever you start to say something negative, say something positive instead.
- Visit the elderly or sick once a week
(The above bullet suggestions are courtesy of the Nashville Dominican Sisters)