Every year, Lent seems to sneak up on me…one week we’re wishing each other “Happy Chinese New Year!” and all of a sudden Ash Wednesday rolls around and I find myself in an internal frenzy trying to decide exactly what to do for Lent. This season of penance is a great opportunity to make more room for God in our lives, as we prepare to remember and celebrate the greatest mysteries of our faith: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus.
There’s no one “right” way to do Lent, and it’s going to look different for everyone. This is your chance to take a reflect on the areas where you personally struggle, and turn away from sin and towards Jesus through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Here are some basic ideas for each of the pillars of Lent; try choosing one thing from each pillar! Choose Lenten practices that would ultimately draw you closer to our Lord and prepare your heart for Holy Week.
Follow along with a Lenten devotional like the one from Blessed Is She
Follow along with Lent reflections via email
Reflect on the daily Gospel reading
Go to daily Mass an extra day or two outside of Sunday
Pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet
Pray the Examen at the end of your day
Go to Holy Hour or Stations of the Cross
Do 10 minutes of spiritual reading each day
Add dedicated quiet time to your schedule each day
Pray specifically for a different person in your life each day
Fast from social media like Facebook/Instagram, or set a time limit on those apps
Fast from Netflix
Fast from all media including TV, music, and podcasts
Fast from your snooze button
Abstain from alcohol
Abstain from soda/sweet drinks
Abstain from meat on an additional day like Wednesday
Limit your shower time
Limit your phone use at night
Fast from filling in silence with music
Fast from music with inappropriate/suggestive lyrics
Fast from unnecessary purchases
Fast from overstuffing your calendar
Give up flaking and follow through on your commitments
Give up overworking and abstain from checking your work email after hours
Give up speeding
Give up online shopping
Donate to a charity each week
Serve at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen
Greet the homeless when you see them
Spend time with those who are lonely or forgotten
Set aside money saved from not buying unnecessary things and donate it at the end to Catholic Charities or another charity
Write an affirmation note for someone each day of Lent
Write down 3 things you’re thankful for at the end of each day
Show an act of kindness to your family or roommates each day
Participate in the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge and give up your stuff
Give your time and participate in 40 Days for Life
Still need ideas for what to give up and take up?
The Grotto Network has an article suggesting what you should give up based on Myers-Brigg personality types.
Ascension has an interactive quiz to give you ideas.
One word of advice: Make it doable. Often, we can be overly ambitious and commit to way too much. We start with the best of intentions, aiming to become the ultimate spiritual ninja…but when we inevitably can’t keep up, we grow discouraged. When we set unrealistic goals, we may be tempted to give up completely. Keep your commitments modest and practical, and your Lent will be better for it!
Again, Lent is not about getting it perfectly right. Just do your best, and when you fail in your commitments, let your failure be a lesson in humility and just get up and try again the next day. Ask the Holy Spirit how He wants to make you more like Jesus, and then follow that prompting in your Lenten practices.