We all say too often, “that went by so fast,” or ask, “where did the time go?” The same will happen to Lent unless we make some firm decisions on how to use these forty days well. Here are seven tips for making the most of Lent, and bringing more joy into these coming 40 days.
1. Do something every day.
It will be hard to make progress if we don’t take on a consistent practice each day during Lent. If you do something only once a week or irregularly it won’t form a lasting habit or do much to help you to make a consistently good Lent.
2. Make sure it pushes you.
Unless you’re totally addicted, giving up chocolate won’t get you very far. Giving up TV, music, alcohol, taking cold showers, regularly volunteering to serve others, doing a holy hour–these are the kinds of difficult practices that push us out of our comfort zone and help us to grow during Lent.
3. Don’t forget regular fasting.
Lent arose as a forty day fast. Although there are many other important practices, Lent should involve some kind of change in your eating habits. Consider eating less each day, giving up meat more than once a week, abstaining from alcohol, or fasting a few days a week.
4. Prayer is essential.
Nothing that we do will bear true spiritual fruit without prayer. Giving things up can focus on our own efforts, while Lent aims at union with God. Make sure you are increasing your prayer time each day during Lent.
5. Go to Mass more often.
A great way to pray more each day is to go to Mass at least one additional day each week. This will help us to unite our prayer and penance to Christ, spending time with him in the desert as we fight the battle of Lent. At Mass, we will encounter Christ in his tangible presence.
6. Pick a spiritual book to read.
St. Benedict, the father of monks, ordered that everyone in the monastery choose a spiritual book to read straight through during Lent. It’s a good idea for all of us, because a good book can guide our Lenten journey. Two great classics are Thomas a Kempis’s Imitation of Christ and St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life.
7. Do something to help others.
The pillars of Lenten spiritual growth are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We can forget the third one. If we are coming closer to God, he also wants us to do something to help others during this holy season. Consider doing something to help the poor as an expression of almsgiving.
Looking for a good way to journey through this Lent as a man in Christ? The 2023 Lenten spiritual exercise from the Exodus team starts February 22 (Ash Wednesday). Get prepared here.
Dr. Staudt holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Ave Maria University and B.A. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN). He serves as Director of Content for Exodus and as Visiting Associate Professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver. He was previously the Associate Superintendent for the Archdiocese of Denver. He has founded a Catholic school and served as a DRE in two parishes and as Director of Catholic Studies at the University of Mary. He is the author of How the Eucharist Can Save Civilization (TAN), Restoring Humanity: Essays on the Evangelization of Culture (Divine Providence Press) and The Beer Option: Brewing a Catholic Culture Yesterday & Today (Angelico Press). His editing experience includes six years as the managing editor of the journal Nova et Vetera and the books Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age (Catholic Education Press) and The University and the Church: Don J. Briel’s Essays on Education (Cluny Media).