We are now at the First Sunday of Lent and entering the first full week of this time of preparation and spiritual growth before Holy Week and Easter! If you have not taken some time to consider how you can best grow closer to Jesus with the help of His grace or if you have thought about it, but need more ideas, I offer this weekend several suggestions that can help you this Lent:
1. Ask for God’s will to be done in your life and then let Him lead. The best way to grow is to reflect on your life, talk it over with God and then follow Him. We need our Lord‘s grace to move forward in love with Him – so be sure to talk about your life with Him!
2. Go to daily Holy Mass whenever possible. The Real Presence of our good Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is the center of our Catholic Faith. Try to be with Him as much as possible!
3. Go to the Sacrament of Confession. This is the Sacrament of Conversion and the Sacrament that brings about wonderful change in the soul. Remember the five elements of a good Confession: A. Examine your conscience; B. Have true contrition for having sinned against God; C. Make a firm resolution to not sin anymore; D. Con-fess all you sins, particularly mortal sins in number and kind; E. Complete the penance assigned by the priest.
4. Examine your interior life. Our Lord would very much like us to do this on a daily basis: what are my thoughts, feelings and de-sires? Then share what is in the heart with Jesus and Mary. We also need to look for our faults. In what areas of life is the heart resistant to the Will of God or the teachings of the His Catholic Church?
5. Pray the Rosary (if possible in the Church) and pray with a greater conviction of God’s personal love for you. We all have need for more contact with God, especially with how busy we let our lives become. Mary teaches us how to be open to God. Through the Holy Rosary Mary brings us closer to Jesus. Also, take time to practice the four core habits of the interior life of prayer: Acknowledge (inside oneself: thoughts, feelings, desires), Relate what is in the soul to God; Receive from God what He wills to communicate; Respond to what God shares with you.
6. Fast from not only food, but anything that takes one away from awareness of God’s loving presence. Is it too much ‘facebook’, internet, television, or video games? Is it a habit of negativity or a critical tongue? Whatever tends to take your attention off of God during the day, try to fast from it.
7. Give alms. The ancient practice sustains the Church and helps those who have less than we do. It also expands our souls to love God and our neighbor more. The sacrifice of almsgiving helps us become more like God, Who has given us all good things in life, including our time, talents and financial resources!
8. Read a good book. Our minds and hearts need to be nourished with Love and Truth, who is God. Find a great Catholic spiritual book and enjoy it. Some suggestions: The Diary of St. Faustina; The Story of a Soul; The Sanctifier; The Miracle of the Mountain; True Devotion to the Virgin Mary.
9. Apologize to someone you have offended and forgive the faults of others. Who needs to hear you say that you are sorry for what you have done or said? Think it through and really mean it from your heart when you apologize. Forgive grudges you have held onto. Let go of negative feelings. Forgive and let go of the debt of the lack of charity in any relationships.
10. Volunteer for God. What are you doing to build up the Kingdom of God? God delights in our effort to work with Him to build up His Church on earth. Volunteer to work for the salvation of souls! If you want to know ways to get involved, ask your pastor!
Let us try some or even all of these 10 suggestions and then have the best Lent ever!
Through the intercession of the Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may the good Lord bless our parishes, our Archdiocese, and the whole Church!