Are you giving something up that you will spend the next 40 days craving?? Do you think depriving yourself of something you really want is going to help your relationship with Christ grow?
Are you giving something up like a bad habit (smoking) or something you know you need to do less of (playing games, watching TV)? Will doing this make you a grumpy person? Will you go back to that habit or thing when Lent is over? Will this help you grow closer to the Holy Trinity?
Are you trying to add a spiritual exercise into your day that you do not currently do? Will doing so make you more stressed out because you have to find the time or will it bring some quiet time into your daily life? Will you fret over it if you forget one day? Will doing this bring you closer to God or just become something to check off your to-do list?
Whatever any of us does for Lent, the real question is, will it lead to improving or intensifying our relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ? At this point you've probably already decided what it is you're giving up or doing different. Now think about whether or not it will be an aid for improving your relationship with Jesus.
I've been struggling with this the last week or so. I've done all sorts of things in the past. Gave up TV one year (which really was great!), gave up chocolate another year (which did make me anxious about Easter, but was a worthy sacrifice), and last year I said a Divine Mercy Chaplet every day (well, most days, weekends were hardest, during the week it was on my calendar at work so it was hard to forget). But this year, I really want to do something that will help me grow spiritually.
Two things occurred to me. First, I could read a designated section or two of the Catechism. Second, I could compile a list of books to read between now and Easter and actually read them.
Both have their pluses. But also minuses!
The biggest minus: will I be simply trying to read these things just to get through them and not really benefiting from them at all? Will it become a chore?
I didn't want whatever I did to become a chore. I want to actually benefit from this. That's the whole point of Lent, right? We appreciate the celebration of the Resurrection at Easter time so much more when we learn what a sacrifice is during the penitential season of Lent. Otherwise, Easter is just another holiday. And we all know that is absolutely NOT true. Easter is the most important holiday we celebrate as Christians!!
So my decision this Lent was to do three things. First, I am giving up playing games on Facebook. That sounds kind of silly, but I do waste a lot of time doing that. I know I will benefit from not playing those games (not that they're "bad" games, just time wasters) and I will be a more productive person and will have more time for more important things. Second I am going to refrain from any snacking on Fridays. I'll eat three normal, meat-free meals, but no snacks on those days.
Third and finally, I will be reading six books, all spiritual reading in some fashion, during the six weeks of Lent. And, to be sure that I actually get something out of these books and I'm not just reading them to get through them, I will be posting on my blog about each one as I finish it. Hopefully this will help keep me somewhat accountable.
Here is my list of Lenten books to read:
- 7 Secrets of the Eucharist by Vinny Flynn. I bought this one this summer when Chris and I were in Stockbridge, MA at the National Shrine of the Divine Mercy. I started this on Monday and I'm already enjoying it!! Stay tuned for a review soon.
- Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. I've started this book a few times and for whatever reason, have never gotten very far. I always end up putting it down at some point and not picking it up again. This is a book that I know needs more focused time. Chris read it a while back and told me I had to read it. So I'm finally going to.
- Saved in Hope / Spe Salvi encyclical letter of Benedict XVI. This was Benedict's second encyclical, issued, I believe, in 2007. Haven't read it at all, but I have a hard copy and I'm finally going to get to it.
- Charity in Truth / Caritas in Veritate encyclical letter of Benedict XVI. This was his third encyclical letter, issued only last year. I don't think he's issued one since, so once I finish this one (and the one above) I should be caught up in reading all of his encyclicals since he became Pope.
- The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri Nouwen. I first heard about this book, and this author, this past summer. So many people mentioned him and mentioned how great this book was, and others, that I finally went out and got it. Hopefully, I'll also be able to read it this Lent.
- The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa lived in the 16th century, was a nun, and a great mystic. She is now also a doctor of the church. This book is about prayer. Very much looking forward to delving into this.
So that's my list and probably the order I will read them in as well. It's a big undertaking, but I feel up to the task. And if I don't finish them all, that's okay. I am going to let God be my guide and if I need to take more time with any one particular book, so be it.
I am looking forward to this Lent. How about you?