We are entering a very special time of the year. People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit. People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose. It will be difficult and require many sacrifices. But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant. Are you ready for… the Olympics Lent?
Much like the Olympic games, Lent and Easter are not ordinary times of the year. It is a special time where we set aside our usual routine and really focus on becoming stronger in our faith. It is a time to really push ourselves spiritually so that we may win that eternal “gold medal” — God’s grace and a place in His heavenly kingdom. Athletes train for years in preparation for the Olympics. Similarly, we must train and build our spiritual muscles in order to get the most out of this holy season. Similar to last year’s Lenten article, here are some things you can do to earn that “Lenten Gold”
- Fast: This can be the toughest form of meditation and prayer. Fast by consuming only one full meal during the day (two smaller meals are allowed to maintain strength). While most people are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, become a Lenten Olympian by fasting more often. Try fasting once or twice a week during Lent. Not ready for that gold medal? Just try skipping desserts and avoiding snacks. God sees every small sacrifice.
- Pray: Allow extra time for prayer. Wake up five minutes earlier and spend that time in silent meditation. Remain conscious of Lent by praying throughout the day. Leaving work? Coming back from lunch? Running an errand? Say a small prayer at any of these times as a reminder of your faith. Want to go for the gold? Check with your parish for Stations of the Cross, Adoration, and other Lenten events.
- Sacrifice: In the Olympics, earning your place on the podium takes hard work and sacrifice. You have to constantly adhere to a strict training regiment and never “slack off” or become lazy. Likewise, making the most of Lent requires making sacrifices. Give up something difficult like watching television or browsing the internet. Give up snacking. Give up alcohol. Replace your “guilty little pleasures” with prayer and build those spiritual muscles.
- Know the Rules: Olympic athletes need to understand the rules of their sport in order to win. Skiers must know the twists and turns of a hill so that they can stay on the best path and achieve a winning time. Hockey players need to know what actions result in a penalty and avoid making them. How do you expect to be a Lenten superstar if you do not understand the rules of the game? Read Bible passages. Read a few pages of the Catechism every night. Learn apologetics. If you are feeling really ambitious, read one of the Holy Father’s encyclicals. Knowing your faith will keep you on that winning path.
- Confession: Even Olympic athletes have bad days. Sometimes a ski jumper gets out of position and doesn’t get as much distance as he should. Sometimes a figure skater falls while trying to land after a difficult leap. But what do they all do? They get back up, learn from their mistakes, move on, and try to do better the next time. To be a Lenten athlete we also need to learn from our mistakes, get up, and move on. Go to Confession. Purge yourself of your sins, listen to the priest giving you absolution, do your penance, and move on and live in God’s graces. Want to go for the gold? Try to convince a loved one who hasn’t received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a long time to go during Lent.
- Have a Plan: Olympic athletes set goals. Skiers have a target time they have to beat in order to win a medal. Figure skaters have a list of moves they need to complete in their routines. They just don’t go out there without a strategy and hope that it all comes together. Likewise, have a plan for Lent. Make a list of all the spiritual goals you want to accomplish before Easter. Start now and continually add to the list as you think of new ways to make this Lent an extra special time of prayer.
The holiest time of the year begins in a few days. Are you prepared? Are you ready to win that spiritual gold medal? Please share in the comments any other ways we can all become Lenten superstars.
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