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How can I better prepare for Lent this year?

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Fr. Bartunek, Lent

Father John, can you give me some perspective on how I can better prepare for Lent this year?

You have no idea what God has in store for you this Lent (but God does, and he is looking forward to it!). On the other hand, you do know that God has chosen to work in our souls through the Liturgy, and that includes the liturgical seasons. So preparing for Lent means getting ready to hear and heed what God wants to say to you during those days. The Church gives us three general directives in this regard.

First, intensify our prayer life

Start thinking now about how you can do this. It’s a good topic to talk about in spiritual direction. Do you need to increase your Eucharistic life, give more discipline to your personal prayer time, inculcate family prayer time, go on a retreat? God will put something on your heart. But be realistic. Don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach (in the spiritual sense).

Second, embrace the Cross

Lent is a penitential season, a time when we remember how self-centered we have been and tend to be, and renew our commitment and efforts at repenting and growing in Christian love. This is the origin of the tradition of “giving something up for Lent.” The idea is to make a sacrifice, denying our naturally self-indulgent tendencies in some way in order to unite ourselves more fully to Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on Calvary. This is not merely a self-help kind of resolution. It is a self-offering to God: “Lord, many times I have chosen to do my own will instead of yours. By offering this sacrifice I want to learn to take up my cross, to say “yes” to you and your will, following in Jesus’ footsteps.” Whatever we give up (e.g. watching sports, eating desert) or take on (e.g. daily Mass, weekly Way of the Cross) as our Lenten sacrifice (again, be realistic), the key is to give it that truly Christ-centered meaning.

Third, the practice Christian charity

Lent is a time to prepare for the fruitful celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection during Holy Week. That Paschal Mystery was God’s unfathomable and amazing testimony of love for us sinners. There is no better way to get in tune with that self-forgetful and self-sacrificial love than by imitating it. During Lent we should make a special point of serving our neighbors – but here again, be realistic. Here the traditional corporal works of mercy can spark ideas. The Catechism reminds us of them (#2447)

Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead.243 Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God

Something in the air of spring brings out new buds, new branches, new life. The word “Lent” has its etymological roots in an Old English word meaning “spring.” Something in the air of Lent will bring out new buds, new branches, new life in our relationship with Christ; we just have to open up some windows.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • Cathy

    This is my second lent. Last year I started with the Liturgy of the Hours, and am still praying that. I know I do not do it correctly, but the prayers and readings are beautiful and uplifting. My lent this year, I am not sure what I am going to do. I am praying, because He led me this far, He will show me where to go. I know that you are the second priest (of all I have come across) to give a sense of urgency to the Eucharist. I need to receive that on a more regular basis. This lent I want to get even closer to His merciful heart, and I know through suffering He does that. He is pulling me closer even as we speak

  • Guest

    Once again, thank you Fr. John for this Article. The Lenten Season of this year is very, very special to me. It is the first Season I am going to celebrate as a member of the Eucharistic Apostolate of the Divine Mercy. I am especially looking forward to the Feast of the Divine Mercy and |I am determined to prepare myself to celebrate it as Jesus wishes it to be celebrated. He Himself led me to this Devotion when I prayed for His guidance on where I could share my Christian journey of Faith in a group setting. This was because it is a bit awkward for me to join the Small Christian Communities organized in Parishes due to my advanced age – 71 is not a comfortable stage in life and I would get lost in the family discussions which take place during these Christian Communities meetings where the age group averages 35 – 45 years.

    I, therefore, plan, again with His help, to add the Divine Office morning, evening and night Prayers to my daily prayers, the Holy Hour Eucharistic Adoration followed by Eucharistic Celebration and Holy Communion. I am praying that my Prayers and petitions for the intentions recommended in the Divine Mercy Devotion will be fruitful for our Church, the Universal Church and bring blessings and Indugencies for those we shall pray for. I shall, of course, be praying for you Father, because your Website has become my Spiritual Lifeline and Guide. God bless you and all our faithful on this Website during this Redemptive Season and throughout their lives.

  • underhermantle

    Are you preparing for lent?

  • Muthoni

    Fr. Dan,

    I am feeling a little ambushed by events this year. I am going through some internal challenges and this has not helped my every day struggle to get closer to God. However I am going to take this lenten season as an ocassion to start again and ask God to walk with me through all my real and imagined crosses.

    Please remember in your prayers during this very special season.

    • Dear Friend in Christ,

      My wife is very happy to know that I am not a priest – but many thanks for the compliment. 🙂

      Be assured that you are in my prayers today.


  • JeremyGarton

    Thanks Fr. for your Lenten prep. ideas. I do have a question about your next to last paragraph! What do you mean by “burying our dead”?Thanks,
    Jeremy Garton
    Weston,  WV

    • $1650412

      Jeremy, one of the corporal works of mercy is to bury the dead. There was a time when taking responsibility for this was something an individual could do- a very real apostolate. In our time in the US, I do not hear of a need for individuals to rise up and take on this ministry very often and specifically, but we can certainly attend the funerals of those we know of or of those who might not have anyone else to pray for them- and offer prayers and sacrifices.Or we can donate to some of the projects where caskets are made for the needy- I am thinking of this religious order who make caskets, and they have a fund for caskets for children to alleviate some of the added burden for  some of their provision- I hope that helps with some information pertinent to your question!

  • Lent is a time of healing in which recent and past events are calling me too. I have a deeper understanding of what God is calling me too this lent. But I feel it is only a little piece right now so I don’t become overwhelmed. Holy mother church is going through a lot too at this time. I hope to be open to the Holy Spirit and Jesus crucified and the Fathers mercy.

  • judeen

     Lent,, – how much we put into it . the more joyous is Easter… the more we fast,  the more we understand and unite our selves with Jesus passion and crusifixion… this is a time to stop being inslaved to our emotions, passions. feelings and wants and also our bodies.. the harder the fast the freer you become…. the devil seeks our weakness.. this is a time to become stronge.. it also purifies our bodies… for fasting cleanzes our bodies…. 1 day on bread and water purifies the body the 2nd day purifies the soul…..any thing clinging on you has to leave… this in new testement.  it is good for our health and for our spiritual life… ! also people are amazed when they see catholics fast… it makes them wonder, watch and talk about faith … without saying anything…. I met a older women who always had toast on fridays and then went to church in the after noon..  we played cards together. wow…it has been years.. and I am still amazed at her strenght..! and how great her faith was… met hermits that gave up meat for lent and I think only had 1 meal aday……wow…i prayed for them all lent… and thinking of them made me think of my own faith ……..

  • Sandy Gascoyne

    I had such a beautiful Lent/Easter last year I fear I won’t ever be able to repeat it. I know this happens to many and won’t let it bother me. I’ve been in stand stills before and it seems to be like a toddler’s growth spurt, a much needed storing process, for the next big leap of growth. God bless your Lenten journey fellow Catholics…

  • suzherbert

    Lent is a profound time of the year for me since 2005 when i formally returned to the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil after being away for 35 years. 

    It was even more profound because of Pope John Paul II sad death that same year and then Pope Benedict XVI healing election.  Now this year with the news of our Holy Father’s decision, this will be a Lent centered more than ever on prayer for him, our new Pope and Holy Mother Church.  

    May we be strong and courageous, for the Lord will never leave us or forsake us.  Deut. 31:6

  • This Lenten Season we are faced with a very delicate situation as my country goes into General Elections on the 4th of March.  We are fearful because of what happened in 2007/8 when there was the terrible widespread violence after the Elections.  Thousands died, others lost their loved ones, homes, properties and others are still living as Internally Displaced Persons having lost everything.  So Christians, especially Catholics,  are in intense Prayers.  Please remember Kenya in your Prayers.

    Well, the Eucharistic Apostles of the Divine Mercy had decided during our  January 27th Monthly Meeting that we would not schedule any Divine Mercy Outreach Missions to Rural Parishes until after the Elections.  And what have we found God has planned for us????? The Parish we visited last Friday to set down the dates for the Outreach Mission and subsequent Training of Trainers Day, insisted we must do the Outreach to his Parish and her 19 Local Churches  during all the Five Sundays of the Month of March…… much for  trotting our own Will……God came forward and told us to do His Will. And this is how we shall live our Lenten and celebrate the Easter this year, ready to be back to the “Command Post” to celebrate the Divine Mercy Sunday on 7th of April.  And before we begin that Outreach, we are in deep Prayer for the Conversion of Sinners 

    • I’ll include your country in my Chaplet intentions Mary. Elections can really bring out the worst in people. There is often some violence in our elections too. God Bless! Stay safe!

      • Thank you, Mary.  Yes, we need all the Prayers we can get. And I really feel humbled, and very thankful to God  by how He has brought us all together and molded us as “The Family of RCSD”

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