Upping Our Lenten Game…

We’re in the middle of the Easter octave. If you’re reading this, that means you’ve made it through Lent. Halleluiah!

Of course, for those of you who either don’t observe the Lenten season, or chose not to do anything out of the ordinary or give anything up for Lent, this may not be that big of a deal. But, for those of us that did challenge ourselves this Lent — and made it faithfully through 40 days of prayer, almsgiving and fasting — kudos to us!

The older I get, the more I’m interested in diving further into my Catholic faith. Back in the day, the thought of giving something up for Lent made me dread that seven-and-a-half week stretch of time that started during Wisconsin’s never-ending winter season.

Something happened along the way and now I actually find myself looking forward to Lent. Maybe because it’s the harbinger of spring. Or what should be spring, I say, as I look out the window at the snow falling… again. Those poor robins came back way too early this year. They never learn!

But, there’s more to it than just the light-at-the-end-of-the-winter tunnel. For some reason, I’ve really grown to enjoy embracing the three pillars of Lent. During this season of the year, in the spirit of almsgiving, we try to give more generously to the various organizations that reach out to us in need of funds.

As far as fasting goes, apparently, my husband and I have reached the age where fasting is no longer mandatory during Lent. Regardless, we still felt compelled to do that this year.

Last year for Lent, we committed to fasting two days per week. A zero-calorie liquid fast (think tea and coffee with no creamer, which is hardly worth the effort of making it, if you ask me). We decided to do that again this year. To make it a bit more challenging, I quit weighing myself during Lent. I didn’t want losing weight to be the focus of the fast. I wanted to offer up my hunger pains for people and souls in need and to reflect on Christ’s Passion on my fast days.

Ramped up my prayer game too. On Ash Wednesday, I started a 54-day novena for our nation. John and I also did the nine-day Surrender Novena. The biggest challenge I undertook this year was committing to attend Mass six days a week, doubling my normal schedule.

Working from home, I usually try to schedule two days each week with no outside appointments. Giving those more-leisurely days up was trying, but the joy I got from attending Mass at eight different parishes in our area during that timeframe was totally worth it.

On Mondays, weather permitting, since it’s a half-hour drive from our house, I attended a small wayside shrine for Mass. The church held maybe 40 or 50 people and there was a full house every week. I was particularly touched by the heartfelt prayers that attendees said out loud during the general intercessions.

When the roads were in poor condition, I attended Mass at noon at an older church in our downtown. We’re told that Blessed Solanus Casey said his very first Mass in that building. The large, older church is packed every Monday. Even parking was at a premium.

On Tuesdays, I attended the church where my husband and I were married 41 years ago. Not to be biased, but this traditional European-style church is one of the prettiest spaces in which I’ve ever worshipped. They have a deacon and priest team who take turns doing the homilies and I’ll tell you what, those men are on fire! And they incorporate traditional Catholic practices into their Mass including offering Adoration an hour before Mass starts, praying The Sanctus (Holy, Holy) and Angus Dei (Lamb of God) in Latin, and ending each Mass with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer.

Wednesdays I have a commitment to my own parish to lector and lead the rosary after Mass, so I was there each week. It’s a smaller crowd, but we’re dedicated. I enjoy our priest’s unscripted sermons on the week days.

Thursdays found me at the sister parish to the Tuesday parish, so it was the same pastoral team. Those parishes feature a kneeler in front of the sanctuary so people may kneel to receive Communion in the hand or on the tongue. When I was there I took advantage of that and did the latter. Another nice feature at those churches is that they pray the rosary before Mass and the Divine Mercy Chaplet for Life after Mass, so it was worth the drive to be there at 6:30 a.m. to catch everything.

Year round, on Fridays I attend a Catholic Bible study with my dad at 6:30 a.m. After the class ends at 7:30, I walk next door to the parish for 7:45 a.m. Mass. The church is a modern style, which wouldn’t normally be my preference, but the priest there does an incredible job of preaching short and memorable sermons so the Masses there are very meaningful.

First Saturday found me at a parish in another local community. The priest there happens to teach our Bible study and is a dear friend, so I always enjoy attending his Masses. I tried to go to confession there during Lent, but the line was surprisingly long, so I went to one of the other churches, making sure to be there fifteen minutes before confession stared to secure a place in line.

Sticking to Lenten commitments isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it. My husband and I are already starting to consider what we’ll do next year. But, in the meantime, we are enjoying Eastertide. Blessings to you and yours as we all journey through this next liturgical season.  

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