SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

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 RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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