Lent is here…again. Though it seems like Lent 2020 was just yesterday (or never really went away at all), here we are, 40 days before Easter and once more being presented with an important opportunity to grow deeper in communion with the Lord.
Lent is perhaps even more poignant this year than it was last, simply because of the challenges that we’ve all endured in the time that’s passed. In a very tangible way, the hardships of the past year are echoed in Christ’s suffering on the Cross, which Lent is meant to remind us of in the lead up to Easter. More importantly, however, Lent helps us to recognize our need for God and invites us to depend on him in new and more meaningful ways within each of our lives.
During Lent of last year, As Pope Francis stood in a hauntingly empty St. Peter’s Square last March 27 and implored the Lord for an end to the Coronavirus pandemic during his Urbi et Orbi address, he spoke these words which remain ever truer today as this Lent begins: “Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: ‘Be converted!’ ‘Return to me with all your heart’ (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”
Approaching Lent as a “time of choosing” gives us the chance to be intentional about what we do and how we spend Lent. Here are a few suggestions to help you do just that.
The Search, produced by the Augustine Institute and hosted by Chris Stefanick, is an innovative video series that tackles the key questions of every human heart. In seven beautifully filmed episodes, Chris Stefanick and experts from multiple fields of science, medicine, psychology, art, and religion examine our place in the larger story of existence. The series is being offered for free to all the faithful of the Archdiocese of Denver during Lent (sign up here).
Throughout Lent, Chris Stefanick will be guiding participants on how to use The Search in their small group during his weekly show The Life You Were Made For. You can sign up to be a part of the audience at RealLifeCatholic.com/LIVE. Each week, he will be joined by a bishop discussing an episode of The Search and sharing their conversion story. Our own Archbishop Aquila will be with Chris on the very first episode, February 18 at 6 p.m. Click here to tune-in.
Consecration to St. Joseph
Given that Pope Francis designated this year the Year of St. Joseph, now is the perfect time to do Father Donald Calloway’s excellent Consecration to St. Joseph. The world is in great need of St. Joseph’s spiritual fatherhood, and seeking his intercession can be a powerful tool for Catholics in today’s confusing times. While a consecration to St. Joseph can be done any time, Father Calloway recommends doing it 33 days before various St. Joseph-related feast days throughout the year. The first one leading up to The Feast of St. Joseph on March 19 began two days ago on Feb. 15. It’s not too late to catch up! Consider consecrating yourself to St. Joseph this Lent as a means to grow in Godly virtue; you won’t regret it. One final note: just as a consecration to the Virgin Mary isn’t just for women, a consecration to St. Joseph isn’t just for men!
Does your smartphone use prevent you from praying? Hallow might be the app for you. This sleek, intuitively-designed Catholic prayer app will help you get your prayer life in order. Not only does it offer the “basics” of guided Catholic prayer, such as the Examen and the Rosary, it also offers guided prayer meditations as well as a selection of homilies and Bible stories from renowned Catholic speakers such as Father Mike Schmitz and Jason Evert. The app hasn’t even been live for a year and it already has an impressive library of prayers, so it’s safe to say that Hallow could become the go-to prayer app for Catholics. Why not make it a part of your daily routine during Lent? Whether it’s a full Rosary or a minute meditation, there’s no time that’s wasted when spent in prayer.
On the other side of the coin, if you are looking to cut back on screen time and consumption of digital media, consider undergoing a digital detox this Lent. The folks behind the Saintmaker Catholic Life Planner is offering a free digital detox with the aim of hopefully breaking some of the bad digital habits we’ve all picked up along the way and redirecting time spent in the digital world to be used instead for the Lord and loved ones. Broken up into seven weeks, the ultimate challenge, should you choose to accept it, would be to extend the digital detox beyond just Lent and do it for an entire year. It likely won’t be easy, but if you’ve been feeling called to cut back on technology a bit, perhaps this is a good starting point. To learn more and accept the challenge, visit thesaintmaker.com/digital-detox. Also, while you’re there, be sure to check out their life planners – these could also prove to be a useful tool in being more intentional with your time this Lent.
Of course, picking up a Lenten devotional is also a classic yet effective way to live a more intentional Lent. There are countless devotionals out there, and perhaps you already have a favorite. However, if you’re looking for a new one, or are just in need of a suggestion, here are two that have become more popular in recent years.
The Blessed Is She Set a Fire Lent Devotional is an elegant devotional for women that’s meant to allow openness to the Holy Spirit. It’s suited for both individual and group use and goes through each week of Lent using a series of essays, scripture and prayers. The physical edition is sold out, but the digital version is available to purchase for $15.
Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble of the Daughters of St. Paul wrote a Lenten devotional a couple of years ago that may seem counter intuitive but is actually a rather unique and powerful way to go through Lent. Titled Remember Your Death: Memento Mori, this Lenten devotional invites us to reflect on death. As the description of the devotional says, “Reflecting on death is not a morbid affair, it is a healthy and often healing practice that helps us accept the inevitable with hope. The eternal life promised in Jesus Christ is our ultimate, hoped-for end. Embracing the reality of death helps us live a better life now. In the light and strength of Christ, it helps us.” You can sign up for free to receive an email each day of Lent, but for the full effect, be sure to pick up a copy of the devotional here.