A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Giving…and Giving Up

Posted on: February 11, 2013

Last year, Ash Wednesday fell shortly before the Rite of Election, where my husband and I were to be received as candidates. Our parish priest asked us to help with the imposition of the ashes. We had to mark people’s foreheads with the sign of the cross and say, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

And so began my first full Lent in the Church.

Before that, the closest I’d come to observing Lent was giving up coffee for those forty days—and although I don’t drink a lot of coffee, it wasn’t pretty. (Just ask my family.)

I wasn’t used to fasting…or abstaining from meat on Fridays…or adding spiritual disciplines to my life during Lent. But I took on these challenges and participated in a Lenten Bible study in our parish. By the Easter Vigil, I felt more prepared to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

And isn’t that what Lent is all about—preparing our hearts by sweeping out the cobwebs through fasting, doing penance, and giving to charity?

How are you preparing for Easter?

Fasting. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a common question this time of year. Maybe you’re giving up or cutting back on something like chocolate or coffee, screen time, or “retail therapy.” But you could also fast from something like complaining, gossiping, or using sarcasm. This Lent, I’m cutting back on my screen time by planning my TV viewing and limiting random web surfing.

Prayer and spiritual reading. Are you going to say a novena or the rosary, or pick up a book like The Imitation of Christ or The Imitation of Mary? I’m planning to make time for saying the rosary and reading more of Mary, Mother of God: Her Life in Icons and Scripture.

Charitable giving. How are you going to give this Lent? Is there a cause close to your heart or one your parish supports? Last year, we tried to follow the Share Lent calendar produced by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace as a way to give and think about our family’s impact on the environment; we may use the calendar again this year.

Parish activities. Are there reconciliation services, a Bible study, or a Way of the Cross service at your parish church? We received our parish schedule of services for Lent yesterday and I’ve marked them in on the calendar. Not because I plan to attend every service, but because I know I’m more likely to take part in some events if I see them on the schedule.

I hope that you enjoy Shrove Tuesday tomorrow (pancakes are on the menu here) and begin preparing your heart this Ash Wednesday.

I also encourage you to pray for the health of Pope Benedict XVI, who is resigning at the end of the month, and for wisdom for all those participating in the conclave in March.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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