In the Gospels, Jesus spent forty days in the desert before starting His public ministry. In that time, He prayed and fasted. But He was also repeatedly tempted by the devil. In a similar way, Lent poses many temptations and challenges for the modern Catholic. We live in a world that no longer values self-sacrifice. The idea that someone would deliberately deny himself something is a very alien concept in a society where you can get anything you want whenever you want. But the point of fasting, sacrifice, and preparation during Lent is to clear out our hearts and minds of all these material goods and make room for God. Like a diet, Lent is a time to clear our souls of all that “junk” we accumulate in our daily lives (work, money, politics, wealth, power, etc.) and really focus on our faith and relationship with God. While it is so easy to treat a day in Lent as just another, normal day, let us really make an effort to make these days extraordinary by taking more time to examine, prepare, clean, and mend our hearts for God.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, prayer is our spiritual exercise. So below I have prepared a Lenten spiritual fitness checklist. And like any exercise program, I’ve divided it into different levels so you can go at your own pace. The clock is ticking folks so lets get moving!
- Give up something you enjoy (chocolate, cookies, coffee, television, video games, etc.). Whenever you have a craving, fill it by saying a prayer.
- Arrive early or stay after mass on Sunday and say an extra prayer.
- Actually sing the hymns and speak up during responses at mass. Participate!
- Find an annoying habit or sinful behavior that you do. Make an earnest effort not to do it.
- Go to confession at least once.
- Do not eat meat on Friday. But that does not mean you should go out and have a lobster dinner either. Remember, this is a time of sacrifice.
- Pray daily.
- All the beginner tasks.
- Meditate on a mystery of the of the rosary daily.
- Read scripture daily.
- Go to the Stations of the Cross at least once.
- Go to adoration at least once.
- Fast once a week.
- Learn something new about the Catholic faith by reading the Catechism.
- All of the intermediate tasks.
- Pray all four mysteries of the rosary daily.
- Fast twice a week.
- Refrain from having or going to large, boisterous parties. Instead, use that time to pray.
- Make plans to meet with your parish priest in a non-religious setting. Get to know your priest outside of Church. Remember, they are human beings and like social events too.
And here is a little motivation from the ultimate spiritual fitness guru, Pope Benedict XVI: