Ten Ways to Get The Most Out of Lent

(repost)

As you know this week is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I *LOVE* Lent. I do. Really! Lots of us cradle Catholics find the fasting and sacrifices of Lent a drudgery. Others ignore Lent altogether. Not me. I see Lent as a mini New Year. A new beginning and another chance to re-charge the batteries in my relationship with the Lord.

10 Ways to Get the Most out of Lent

Here are some ideas for you to spend your time this Lent. (Btw, if you read my “Making Advent Meaningful” post, you’ll notice some of the suggestions are the same. That’s because there are some things – like the Mass and rosary – that are worth being reminded of again. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

1. Daily Mass. Since the Eucharist the the “source and summit of our faith”, it stands to reason that daily mass should be on top of our Lenten “to-do” list!

2. Adoration. Next to the mass, adoration is the next best thing – especially if you are unable to make it daily mass for whatever reason. More and more parishes are offering at least monthly or weekly exposition and adoration (and some have perpetual adoration) of the Blessed Sacrament, so try and snag a half hour each week if you can!

3. Stations of the cross. The Stations of the Cross is a beautiful way to remember the passion of the Lord. Again, most parishes have Stations of the Cross once or twice each Friday of Lent. If you can’t make it to church, you can get some beautiful pamphlets for next to nothing and pray they them at home with your family.

4. Forgive. Through Jesus, our sins are forgiven and so that we may receive mercy. One of the best (and hardest!) ways to show gratitude for the Lord’s goodness is to forgive those who have hurt us – especially if the transgression was grievous. Just as hard, ifย  not even harder, is forgiving ourselves. Or sometimes we hold on to grudges and anger, even when we can’t remember how a particular person has hurt us! If you see yourself in any of these scenarios, maybe you can pray the Lord opens your heart to forgiving someone who has hurt you, or praying that He will help you forgive yourself? Even the prayer that He helps you to WANT to forgive would be a great start…

5. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The morning and evening prayers of the Liturgy of the hours are always beautiful, but especially during the Lenten season.ย  It is the official prayer of the church, and when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, you are united will all the faithful around the world who are praying it with you!

6. Go to confession. It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation now, but whatever you call it, there’s no better way (besides the mass!) to prepare for Easter. There will be (or should be) many Penance services around your diocese, so you should be able to find one that fits in your schedule.

7. Watch the Passion of the Christ. Yes, watching the Passion of the Christ is painful. It’s in your face. It renders us speechless. And it should. What Jesus endured for our sake wasn’t “touchy feely” or a walk in the park. It was ugly, but our sin in even uglier, and sometimes we (I) need something like this movie to remind us (me) just how much Jesus loves us and was willing to endure for us.

8. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Who says you have to wait for the Divine Mercy Sunday Novena to pray the chaplet? It’s a short but perfect prayer for Lent. I also try and read parts, if not most, of Saint Faustina’s diary during Lent, too.

9. Pray the the Scriptures. Next to participating in the Sacraments, there is no better way to deepen our relationship with the Lord than Scripture.ย  Spending as little as five minutes a day with His Word can transform your life. (New to reading the Bible? Read this guide on how to pray the Scriptures.)

10. Fast. All through Lent we will be hearing about fasting. It’s good for the soul. It opens our eyes to the needs of others. it cleanses us of our base passions. But, fasting isn’t just giving up food, or even television (both of which are excellent). This year, why don’t we fast from anger, sloth or any of the other “capital sins” and try to feast on its opposing virtue? (I know my diet has been terribly deprived of patience lately! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Now, don’t feel pressured to do all of these activities. Remember, the focus is to deepen our relationship with Christ not add on more to-dos! Start out small. Pick one to three activities and focus on those. Lent is not a competition or race to see how much you can do. It is about focusing on a few things and doing them well so that you can focus on growing deeper in your relationship with the Lord, not exhaust yourself.

So tell us, what are your suggestions for making Lent special for you this year?

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Tweetable: Ten Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent

Divine Mercy Novena – Introduction (Starts Tomorrow!)

(Photo Credit)

Devotion to the Divine Mercy is one of the most powerful and important devotions a Catholic should have. If you ignore all of the devotions I’ve been suggesting since January, DON’T ignore this one!

I’ve talked about Saint Faustina before and I HIGHLY recommend you read her diary. As a matter of fact, I’ve shared some quotes from her diary in the past.

In Saint Faustina’s Diary, the devotion to the Divine Mercy consists in several things:

1. The 3 o’clock hour

2. Praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet

3. Veneration of the Divine Mercy Image

4. Praying the Divine Mercy Novena prior to Mercy Sunday

Over the Easter season I will talk about the the Hour of Mercy and the Divine Mercy Chaplet and encourage you to develop a “habit” of praying those two prayers. I will also talk about the significance of Divine Mercy Sunday some time this week.

For now, I want to remind you that the Divine Mercy Novena starts on Good Friday of each year (that would be tomorrow) and strongly encourage you to join in with the novena.

As I did for St. Joseph’s novena, I will post a link to the prayers each day as a reminder.

Recommended Reading

Here are a couple of sites for you to learn more about the Divine Mercy Devotion:

EWTN

Divinemercysunday.com

thedivinemercy.org

Top Ten Favorite Christian Books

Last week I shared our Top Ten Children’s Books. This week I thought I’d share my top ten favorite Christian books (for grown-ups!). These are all books that have had an impact on my spiritual or family life.

1. The Holy Bible. I suppose this should be a given, but I am including it anyway. ๐Ÿ™‚ There is absolutely no “book” more crucial to living an authentic Christian life than the bible.ย  I try to spend time praying the scriptures at least a few days a week when I can.

2. The Catholic Catechism. The Catechism is a “must have” companion to the bible. It is not a book that you read from cover to cover. It is a book that you can go from section to section as you need. Part Four of the Catechism is an absolutely beautiful expose of the Our Father. If you haven’t read the section on the Our Father, you should!

3. The Imitation of Christ. I can’t tell you how many times I have re-read this book! It is a classic book loaded with admonitions, prayers and advice for living a Christian life.

4. Abandonment to Divine Providence. This is another awesome classic! This sneak peek says it all: “If the work of our sanctification presents, apparently, the most insurmountable difficulties, it is because we do not know how to form a just idea of it. In reality sanctity can be reduced to one single practice, fidelity to the duties appointed by God. Now this fidelity is equally within each one’s power whether in its active practice, or passive exercise.”

5. Handbook of Prayers. I’ve only had this book since January and it’s already has that “well-worn” look! It is chock-full of classic prayers, novenas and devotions. It even has the prayers in both English and Latin. I keep this book by my bedside and use it every day.

6. Divine Mercy in My Soul. I read all or parts of this book every Lenten season. This book relates the experiences and visions of Saint Faustina Kowalska. It is from her that the Lord gave us the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Feast of Divine Mercy.

7. True Devotion to Mary. This book from Saint Louis de Montfort expounds on why we should have devotion to Mary and what perfect consecration to Jesus through Mary means. It also includes the 33 days of preparation for the consecration. I use this almost every year when I renew my consecration.

8. A Mother’s Rule of Life. This book by Holly Pierlot is a wonderfully practical book. Taking the idea from a religious order’s rule of life, Holly shows us how to balance our “Five ‘P’s” (Prayer, Person, Partner, Parent and Provider) by creating our own “Mother’s Rule.”ย  I confess to being a total failure on this. I’ve made and tweaked (and tweaked and tweaked!) my own rule but often forget to follow my own rule! I keep going back to this book though, for inspiration and keep trying!

9. The Trial of Faith of St. Therese of Lisieux. I have to come clean here: before reading this book I didn’t have much appreciation or devotion to Saint Therese. She seemed “too flowery” and “up in the clouds” for me. I’m a very practical person and she didn’t seem very practical to me. Boy was I wrong! She suffered tremendously and even suffered doubts about God. This book changed the way I thought of St. Therese and of suffering.ย  If you are ever struggling with your faith you should consider reading this book!

10. The Way, Furrow, The Forge. This book is actually a compilation of three books by Saint Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei. They are exhortations, counsels and food for thought to be taken with you during times of meditations. In the words of Saint Josemaria himself: “Read these counsels slowly. Pause to meditate on these thoughts. They are things that I whisper in your ear-confiding them-as a friend, as a brother, as a father. And they are being heard by God. I won’t tell you anything new. I will only stir your memory, so that some thought will arise and strike you; and so you will better your life and set out along ways of prayer and of Love. And in the end you will be a more worthy soul.”

What are you favorite Christian books? Do share! And don’t forget to add your own Top Tens post over a Oh Amanda!

10 Ways to Make Time for Prayer

clockAs Christian women, we know the importance of making time for prayer. We want to foster our relationship with Jesus and spending time with Him is the only real way to do that. As busy moms, we also know that finding time for prayer can be a challenge. We make excuses. We get caught up in all the details of homeschooling, running our homes and (sometimes) playing chauffeur for our children.

If you want to make prayer a priority but can’t seem to find the time, the trick might be to sneak it in! Here are some tips that have helped me fit prayer into my day:

1. Get up early. Yeah, that can be hard, I know; especially if your young ones are early birds. Until recently, my son would be up between 5:30-6:00am and getting up at 5:00am was HARD. Still, if you can get up even 20 minutes before your children and spend just 15 minutes or so with the Lord in prayer or reading the Bible, you will be amazed at how it can set your day right. You’ll be more focused and prepared for the day and have that extra boost to keep the Lord in your heart during the day.*

2. Make a prayer appointment. We make hair appointments, doctor appointments and all kinds of appointments so why not make a prayer appointment? When you are calendaring your other appointments, blot out a time for prayer each day or at least once a week. If you can leave your child/children with grandparents or mother’s helper for a while even better. Take that time for adoration before our Lord in the Eucharist if your church offers it. **

3. Pray as a family. Praying with your children is an awesome way to not only find time for yourself to pray, but also instill a habit of prayer in your children. It doesn’t have to be long. You can do five minutes of morning devotions before starting school or pray a decade of the rosary after dinner. Let each child take turns leading the prayers each day so that they feel involved.

4. Hide some aspirations around the house. Okay, this might sound silly, but it does help! Write little aspirations (such as “Jesus I trust in You.” or “Sweet Jesus, be my salvation.”) or scripture verses down on sticky notes and post them on the inside of your kitchen cabinets or doors, mirrors or any where around the house where you will see them frequently.

5. Pray while you work. Throw on a rosary DVD while you clean the house or tackle a household project. Or, put on some worship music so you can sing out your prayer to the Lord. (A fun homeschooling project would be to have each kid write his or her own “prayer song” to sing during devotional time.)

6. Exercise. Again, put on some worship music and dance before the Lord! You’ll get in a good workout and pray at the same time. Going for a run or bike ride? Don’t be so quick to put on those headphones. Use that time to pray and chat with our Lord, Our Lady and/or the saints. Lifting weights? Say an aspiration with each repetition.

7. Pray in the car. Going on a long trip? Listen to the Bible on tape for a while. Throw on a DVD of the Divine Mercy Chaplet or worship music while on your way to or from the store, appointments or activities. Dropping the littles off somewhere? Spend a couple of minutes in the car before driving off to your next destination. Picking them up? Get there a few minutes early and sit in silence before the Lord before it’s time to get them.

8. Turn off the TV. Believe me, I know how tempting it can be to plop down in front of the television after a busy day. You want to get off your feet and relax. Why not put off turning the TV on for 30 minutes and work on a bible study or read the Catechism or pray the rosary first? You may change your mind about turning the TV on at all. ๐Ÿ™‚

9. Pray in bed. If he’s willing, take a few minutes to pray with your husband before drifting off to sleep. Having trouble getting to sleep? The cadence of the rosary or divine mercy chaplet is very soothing and easily can put your body and spirit to rest.

10. Join (or form) a mom’s prayer group. Getting together with other moms to pray for and support each other in your journey with the Lord can be an awesome blessing. If there isn’t a group already formed, get a few of your mom friends and see if they are interested. Each mom can take turns hosting or meet at a local park (weather permitting). The kids can play while the moms can pray!

BONUS! 11. Head for the restroom. Hey, sometimes you’ve got to get creative! ๐Ÿ™‚ If all else fails and you’ve been too busy to even think, head for the restroom for a minute or two (even if you don’t have to “go”). Use that time to re-group and re-center In the Lord.

Obviously you can’t (nor should you, necessarily) do all these all day everyday. What’s important is to take time to strengthen your relationship with the Lord so take it slow and experiment with the different suggestions until you find the ones that work for you.

Do you have any creative ways for incorporating prayer into your every day? Do share! I’d love to find new suggestions for growing in my relationship with the Lord.

*If you areย  having difficulty getting up in the morning, you may have to re-think your evenings! Are you going to bed too late? Can you re-arrange things so you can get to bed earlier? Of course, if You are a night person, praying at night instead of the morning will work for you instead. ๐Ÿ™‚

**Another idea would be to do a “kid’s swap” with another mom. You take her kids for an hour or two one day a week and she takes your kids on another day of the week. This is a great way to give both moms a break. (Just try not to cheat and run errands or do other things when you could be praying!)

(This post is linked to WFMW and Top 10 Tuesday.)

(Photo Credit: Dennis Hill and Friends)