by Tara K. E. Brelinsky
I admit that I’ve got an edge on this Lent thing this year. Seven weeks ago I jumped on board the Nineveh/Fiat/Magnify 90 crazes. I felt called to go deeper this year, to challenge myself in ways that I had not before.
Now before anyone is tempted to judge me, for the good or the bad, let me say out-right that this decision was mine alone. The Church in her wisdom requires the faithful to follow the lead of Jesus, so Lent requires 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, not 90 days.
And I would be dishonest if I led you to believe that my journey to draw closer to Jesus has been an easy one or that I’ve won the battle each day for the last seven weeks. Some days have been harder than others and I’ve caved here and there. But the beautiful lesson in all of this for me has been a renewed awareness of the gift of grace and the abundant chances to begin again (every.single.day).
Certainly, Lent is a sufficient length to gain these insights, but I suppose I just needed more this year. And the advantage in my having started this race early is that I’ve discovered a treasury of resources which are going to make this the best Lent ever for you and for me!
1. Discerning Hearts podcast
The Discerning Hearts podcast, I cannot say enough good things about this free podcast which can be found through a number of sources including Spotify, Apple and Podbean. The programs available on Discerning Hearts will instruct your mind and lift your spirit. Monsignor John Esseff, Michael Aquilina, Dr. Paul Thigpen and Fr. Timothy Gallagher are just a few of the faithful voices who share their wisdom on how to grow in holiness on this podcast.
2. Fr. Gallagher’s Discernment of Spirits
I have read St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Discernment of Spirits (which I recommend every Catholic read), but Fr. Timothy Gallagher’s book and his Discernment of Spirits podcast presentations, which are based on his book, increased my understanding of this valuable teaching. If you’ve ever wondered how to discern God’s Will, then this work is a MUST read/listen.
Search for Fr. Gallagher’s Discernment of Spirits on the Discerning Hearts podcast channel.
3. The Art of Living Well
On his The Art of Living Well platforms, Fr. Ian Van Heusen, of the Diocese of Raleigh, offers a wide range of instructional videos, articles and podcasts that will help you grow deeper in your understanding and practice of the faith. Also, Father’s energy and zeal are contagious.
Fr. Ian Van Heusen will take part in the youth program at this year’s Ignited By Truth Catholic Conference (IBT).
4. Fr. Gaitley’s 33 Days to Merciful Love
33 Days to Merciful Love is another in the series of do-it-yourself retreats by Fr. Michael Gaitley, former IBT speaker. Personally, I’ve completed 33 Days to Morning Glory and I highly recommend reading it too, but I found 33 Days to Merciful Love to be the perfect fit during this penitential season. The added bonus to reading this book now is that it will facilitate a deeper devotion to Christ’s merciful love on the Feast of Divine Mercy this year.
5. Go Grey scale
Turn your smart phone to grey scale to help you curb your usage. Depending on your type of phone, there are a variety of ways to access this setting. Turning all of your images and social media feeds to shades of grey is a visual reminder that this period of Lent is a somber time.
It can also serve as a subtle nudge to avoid mindless scrolling. Additionally, once we reach Easter and you turn your device’s color back to normal, you’ll have a new appreciation for all of the beautiful family photos that fill your social media newsfeeds.
6. Read a Book
Read a book. Take your pick. There are library shelves and online bookshops full of them. Commit to reading at least one whole book this Lent.
If you are looking to learn about the faith, try former IBT speaker Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup: Unveiling the Mystery of the Last Supper and the Cross or Dr. John Bergsma’s Stunned by Scripture: How the Bible Made Me Catholic. If you’d prefer works of fiction, read the works of Catholic authors like Flannery O’Connor or G.K. Chesterton.
Don’t miss Dr. John Bergsma’s talk at this year’s Ignited By Truth Conference! And be sure to stop by his book table and pick up some new reading materials.
Many titles can also be found as audiobooks. Try applications like Libby to gain access to your local library’s collection of free audiobooks.
7. Tune into Catholic Programming
Watch or listen to EWTN programming. The Eternal Word Television Network offers everything from daily Mass to Catholic entertainment. You can access the programs through cable, radio and internet. Additionally, local radio stations like 540-AM Divine Mercy radio, EPIC FM 103.5 Wake Forest radio and Wilmington Catholic radio broadcast some EWTN programs along with local Catholic programming.
8. Read the Word of God
Immerse yourself in the Word of God this Lent. Read the daily Mass readings. Sign-up on Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire website to receive the daily readings and a Lenten meditation directly in your email inbox. Or subscribe to Magnificat for year-round access to the daily readings and corresponding meditations.
9. Pick Your Times for Prayer
Get intentional about prayer this Lent and set alarms to help you stay committed. Set alarms for 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm to help you remember to pray the Angelus. Schedule your ringer to buzz at 3 pm and stop to pray the Divine Mercy chaplet. Pick your hour and set your clock to chime when it’s time to meditate on the mysteries of the Rosary.
Remember, also, to get intentional about praying through the Stations of the Cross. Attend the Stations of the Cross at a local parish, pray them in an outdoor setting with a group, or simply join Jesus’s Passion on your own.
10. Pray The Divine Office
Join in the prayer of the Church, pray the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as the Divine Office). All priests promise to pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day and it’s a perfect way for the lay faithful to also connect with God’s constant presence in their daily lives. If carrying around the books for The Liturgy of the Hours is too cumbersome, iBreviary is designed to make praying The Divine Office easy and convenient.
Follow the Church’s prescribed fasts, but don’t stop there. This Lent fast from: negative commenting online, rash judgments, impatience, profane words, mindless entertainment, anger, grudges, arguing, complaining, unnecessary purchases, alcohol, second-helpings, between meal snacks, hitting the snooze button, hot showers, and immediate gratification.
12. Cultivate Silence
Our modern world reverberates with noise. Whether it’s the actual drone of our televisions, radios and smart phones or the mental noise that fills our minds when we scroll social media and read the latest fear-inducing news report, we’ve generally lost our understanding of the value of silence. And yet, God speaks to us in the silence.
Commit to spend at least one hour a week adoring the Blessed Sacrament this Lent. Sit in silence before your Creator and allow Him the space and time to speak within your heart.
13. Journey into Conversion
Watch Metanoia on Wild Goose TV and join Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR, President of Franciscan University and founder of The Ministry of the Wild Goose, on the journey of a lifetime: “a journey of grace, hope, repentance, and transformation.”
14. Adopt a Verse, Holy Ejaculation or God-tap
Praying formal prayers is necessary, but occasionally constraints on your time and circumstance make it difficult to meditate on the decades of the Rosary or Divine Mercy chaplet. Ask God to lead you to specific lines in scripture and then memorize His Word so that you can recall it easily.
For example, when I’m tempted to stress over a trial in my day I say, “Lord, You make all things new. Make me new” (2Cor. 5-17). Verses from Jeremiah 29, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope,” have helped me endure countless struggles. And when anxiety tries to creep in, I’ll recall the instruction of St. Padre Pio to “Pray, hope and do not worry.”
Holy ejaculations like “Come, Holy Spirit” or “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us” lift the mind and produce real aid.
Several years ago I found my God-tap, my reminder to offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. For me, the number 33 is a reminder to pray a Glory Be. So every time I see 33 on places like the clock, a sign or a receipt, I automatically recall that God IS Father, Son and Holy Spirit and He Was, Is and will continue to Be in control of everything for eternity. I see the number often and it always makes me smile (and pray).
15. Get Personal
Reconnect with people this Lent. Build community by reaching out to others: write letters to relatives (on paper!), call a friend, visit a shut-in, send a card to someone whom you admire, make a spiritual bouquet for your priest, sacrifice your time to do something out-of-the-ordinary for a stranger, smile at your cashier, or compliment your co-worker.
As part of my Nineveh 90 challenge, I meet weekly with a small group of other women. It’s amazing how fruitful that one hour a week is in my life. As a busy mother and wife, I’d forgotten how vital community can be.
Let’s Be Faithful
As I said from the start, I haven’t won all of the battles during the course of this journey, but that’s okay. As St. Theresa of Calcutta said, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.”
Day by day, little by little, one sacrifice, one prayer, one lesson at a time we exercise faithfulness. Then, just as surely as Easter follows Lent, so too, we’ll experience the victory which comes from a life lived in pursuit of holiness.
Lenten Events Around the Diocese of Raleigh
To stay up-to-date on events happening around the diocese, like Lenten reconciliation services, subscribe to Ignited By Truth’s event calendar.