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. 🙂 )

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, if  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.  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.  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! 😉 )

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

How to “Get Something” out of Mass

Over the years people have told me (usually in explaining why they don’t bother with church anymore), “I don’t get anything out of the Mass.” I’ve been hearing it again recently by several different people. This is a sad statement. It tells me that the person saying this doesn’t understand what the Mass is all about and that’s a shame. It is a sorry testament of how little many of us, even many of us faithful Catholics, really know what our own faith.*

Eucharist

(photo credit: Lawrence OP via photopin cc)

The statement “I don’t get anything out of the Mass” also brings me to ask at least two questions. 1) “What are you looking to get out of Mass?” and 2) “What are you putting into the Mass?”

“What are you looking to get out of Mass?

If you are looking for good music, a great preacher and being filled with fluffy feelings, you aren’t always going to get it. That’s not what mass is about. Sure it helps if the music is beautiful and uplifting but that won’t always be the case. Sometimes the singing stinks. Sometimes there isn’t any music at all. Sometimes the priest is a good speaker that gets everyone fired up; however, the reality is that most priests do the best they can but they aren’t good speakers. Who hasn’t fallen asleep (or almost fallen asleep) listening to a priest who is monotone and uninspiring? And most times when you go to mass you aren’t going to have fluffy feelings. Sure, once in a while you’ll get an overwhelming emotional “something” when yo go to mass but more often you won’t. But here’s the thing, Mass isn’t about good music, good preaching or good feelings.

“What are you putting into the Mass?”

Do you show up for mass at the last second or late? Do you leave right after communion? Do you spend time talking with the Lord or chatting up the people around you? Do you let yourself get distracted or caught up in whatever is going through your mind? Is your heart and mind open to what the Lord wants to do or say to you during Mass? If so, how do you expect to get anything out of Mass if you aren’t willing to put any effort into it? I think it is safe to say that most of us know that the more we put ourselves into something the more we get out of it. This is true even with the Mass. Don’t get me wrong. We all have things that distract us. We all have crosses to bear and life can push its way into our minds, distracting us. But are you trying to make an effort? There are things we can do to prepare ourselves so that we can get more out of mass. I’ll talk about those things tomorrow.

What DO you get out of Mass?

JESUS! We get the honor and privilege of participating in the un-bloody sacrifice of the Lord. Jesus gives himself, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, completely to us in the Eucharist. He does this, not for Himself, but for us. God doesn’t need our worship, but we have a deep desire and need to worship HIM. We need to receive Him and be united to Him.

Another thing we get out of Mass is grace. We get God’s grace to help us and strengthen us in our daily lives, to help us avoid and overcome sin, and to live the life we have been called to live.

The secret to getting “something” out of Mass.

Want to know the secret to getting something out of Mass? Forget yourself. Just drop the idea that you are supposed to get something out of Mass. Refocus your attention to where it belongs – on Jesus. I promise you, if you shift your mindset and focus on Jesus, if you keep your heart and mind open, looking for Him to speak to you, He will.

Don’t get me wrong, if you have children, don’t ignore them if they need something or have to be settled down. If you have elderly parents, don’t pretend they aren’t there! What I’m saying here is do your best to focus on what is happening at the Altar, expecting God to touch you. Every time we receive the Eucharist Jesus comes to us. Let’s be ready to receive him. In tomorrow’s post I will offer some practical tips and ideas to help you do this.

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Product Review: Journey With Jesus: Sacraments

Journey with Jesus

via http://www.armadei.blogspot.com

Monica over at equippingcatholicfamilies.com was kind enough to give me the “Journey with Jesus: Sacraments” craft kit to review.

Journey with Jesus is a 23 page printable kit that teaches children about each of the 7 Sacraments as well as the Mass, the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit and the Stations of the Cross. Each page has fill in the blanks, prayers, Catechism and Scripture quotes and information regarding the Sacrament being studied. There are also pictures related to each Sacrament that the child can study. Once the pages are completed they can be made into an accordion scrapbook like in the picture above, or put into a store-bought scrapbook or one that you’ve created yourself.

My experience

So far, Andrew and I have worked on the Baptism and Sacrament of Penance pages. He is seven and will be making his First Holy Communion next year, God willing. My plan is to work on the pages as much as we can, put the scrapbook together and then revisit the book each time he receives a sacrament. And not being very creative (!) I’ve opted to just make our scrapbook out of construction paper.

So far Andrew and I have enjoyed working on the pages together. It’s been so wonderful talking about Baptism and Penance with him and watching his understanding and knowledge of our faith expand. I’ve read the Scripture and Catechism passages, having Andrew read the words he knows before he colored and glued and the pages to the construction paper.

If I had one slight criticism, it would be that the fill in the blank lines are a little too small. I’ve had to write the answers down for him because he’s not able to write that small yet. Having said, that, there really isn’t anyway to make them bigger and include everything on each page.

Andrew’s experience

When I asked Andrew how he like the craft kit, and told him I would be writing a review, he told me that he wanted to give his own review. 🙂 This is what he said:

I like this stuff, except there’s too many words I don’t know. I like the pictures to color and I like gluing.

Here are a few pictures he wanted me to take of him working on the pages:

Andrew coloring

Baptism page

Finished Baptism

Happy Andrew

I definitely recommend this Sacrament craft kit and give the program four (4) stars. 🙂

 

Finding Joy: Week Two

So, we are on week two in our journey to finding joy. I did okay, not great, but okay. I’m not going to kick myself in the head over it, though. I am going to rejoice over small successes. Here are this past weeks ups and downs:

Finding joy in God:

I’ve been doing the decade of the rosary almost every day. Missed only once.

I’ve been doing well in spending quiet time with the Lord; however, I need to push myself to get out of bed. Yep. I’ve been trying to do the 10 minutes as soon as I wake up before getting out of bed because it seems like my son has a radar and knows I’m up – even if we are several rooms apart! Then he’s up interrupting my prayer time. The problem is, though, that when I start to pray while in bed, I soon after fall into a daze. I don’t fall asleep but, zone out. Not good for prayer, is it?! Not sure about how to solve this quite yet. Any ideas?

I’ve made it to a daily mass once. It truly was the only day I could make it, so I’ll be satisfied to do that. Next week I’ll aim for twice a week and work my way up.

Finding joy in my husband:

My husband has been working late and tired, so date nights have been out of the question for now. I have been trying to say (authentic) nice things about him to him and not complain when he leaves the closet door open and his clothes lying around. It is such a small thing so I don’t know why I get so crazed that he leaves the closet door open, but I do!

Finding joy in my son:

I think I’ve been a bit more patient, but need to work on this more. “Why does it have to take 5-10 minutes to put on a shirt? Just put it on already and stop jumping around the room!” is an often repeated in a loud voice…

As for focused fun time, I haven’t sat and played a game with him this week; but, we had a weekend of activity during the 4th of July holiday. And yesterday (Wednesday) he was sick with a fever so I spent extra time cuddling and nurturing him. Thankfully it was a 24 hour thing and he’s better now!

Finding joy in self care.

Well, a couple of days after writing last week’s finding joy post I started menstruating. Not a good time for starting a diet and exercise plan due to the cramps and generally feeling yucky. I did try to watch what I ate and stretched a little bit. I’m going to put this goal in high gear in a few more days.

Finding joy in the home.

We are staying at my in-laws until we find a new place (long story), so my goal of creating a loving atmosphere is a bit limited. Will do little things when I can and go into high gear when we move into our new place.

As for accepting the imperfect, well, I have to do that whether I like it or not. 🙂 I’m theoretically closing my eyes to the “messes” or “imperfections” I see and keeping my mouth shut.

Little ways I’ve found joy this week.

Had such a blast visiting my cousin last Sunday. I hadn’t seen her in a long time and we all had a great day.

Had fun at my niece’s 8th grade graduation party. She’s about to be a high schooler now, wow!

Enjoyed some quiet time when my husband and son went to the beach for fireworks and bonding time July 4th evening.

Although my little guy was sick yesterday, it was nice to cuddle and have little conversations. He is so cute and sweet when he’s sick!

How did (are) you finding joy this week? Come share your joys with us over at Angie’s Many Little Blessings.