Tweak Old Traditions to Enrich Your Lenten Journey

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We’re almost through Week One of Lent. If our Lenten promises to pray, fast and give follow the path of our New Year’s resolutions, about one in four of us are already failing. But the grace of Lent is such that in our failure, we draw even closer to God. 

Still, if you’re looking for inspiration for your Lenten journey, we asked IVC spiritual reflectors to share with us their go-to Lenten practice to which they commit through the season, year after year. Many rely on deep, centering prayer, spiritual reading, daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and retreats. Others add a small, unique twist to their fasting, prayer or giving traditions. So whether you’ve struggled with your Lenten practices this first week or you’re still going strong, we share a few ways to enrich your Lenten observance.

Sharing True Intimacy 

I look at Jesus, who is looking at me. Or in other words, I become aware of Jesus, who is aware of me.

I then allow His awareness of me to affect me. I pay attention to how I am reacting to His presence with me …. And I share what is going on in me with Him.

It is, for me, essential to my relationship with Jesus. Just as with any other friend, I want to be aware of that person and their effect on me, and I want to share how they affect me with them. That’s what true intimacy is to me.

— Paula Sapienza, Denver

Facing Christ’s Gaze

I simply take a few minutes to take sustained breaths in and out at various points in the day, whether it is relaxing with a cup of coffee, in preparation before Mass, or before a nightly Examen, to let Christ gaze upon me. I don’t look for Him, but I acknowledge that He sees me. I know that He is setting His affirming gaze upon me. Even if I can’t pray, I simply sit before Him and be. Prayer is at His initiative, but even for a moment, I like to sit to know God has fixed His attention upon me.

— John Predmore, SJ, New England

Make Fasting Personal

When I fast, I always connect it to someone.  If I fast from wine during Lent, I am remembering Joe who has prostate cancer, for example.  

— James Hayes, SJ, New England

Drinking in Moments of Reflection

I keep a reasonably strict diet much of the year, and alcohol is usually the first thing that tempts me to break my routine and overindulge. Eliminating it during Lent drives me to be more generous and to turn to quiet prayer and reflection instead of a drink at the end of a tough day.

My second go-to is to avoid television/movies. Again, it gives me time for reading, prayer, reflection, instead of escaping into Netflix to wind down at the end of the day.

— Fr. Tom Whittingham, Philadelphia

Asking for What We Want to Receive

As we all know, Lent comes around quickly each year. What I try to do during the 40 days of Lent is to achieve a balance in my life, putting what I have done, what I am doing, and what I hope to do into what I consider proper perspective. 

As I go through these days, I ask myself, “What would Jesus, the Christ, do if he were in my place?” A simple question so easy to ask, but difficult to respond to because it demands a good deal of continual discernment. As St. Ignatius of Loyola asks the members of the Society of Jesus, we need to ask for what we want to receive.

— Patrick Samway, SJ, Philadelphia

Naming Names

Each day I name the person who has had an influence [on me], perhaps challenged me, often known my needs before I do…any number of reasons why that person is important. [I write them a letter] that says, I pray specifically for him/her that day and especially as I close the day with the Examen. In addition, I find a small Lenten reflection booklet and enclose it with the letter I send. This year it is Seeds of Hope by Fr. Michael Sparough, SJ.

— Maureen Kennedy Barney, Chicago

Recalling Baptismal Promises

I begin remembering the words of a friend of mine, who said on the day he was made a Bishop that that sacrament was not as significant as the sacrament that all of us (who were present) had received — Baptism. 

Then I go to the records of my Baptism (and other sacraments), and recall the places, people, days, saint. Then I take prayer time on the words for the renewal of my Baptismal Promises. I ask myself, How am I doing being faithful to my Baptism this Lent, this year, this time of my life?

— Jim Dixon, S.J.

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