Growing spiritually during Lent

How’s your Lent going? About this time of the season, we’re either well into a rhythm of observance, or we feel the time slipping by and think we’re not “doing” enough.

Take heart. With over four weeks ahead until Easter, there’s time to mark this penitential season. Think outside the box.

There’s no doubt a COVID Lent offers challenges. Some are still live-streaming Mass from their couch and steering clear of public observances like the Stations of the Cross. I know priests who are hearing confessions from the same parking lot where they distributed ashes. We’re still mandated to wear masks in my county. All of this may leave us feeling disconnected.

But if you have computer access, there are so many spiritual connections online. My brother has been a regular at a weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meeting for years. Since his meeting has been on Zoom for a while, he decided to branch out. He found a Zoom meeting in County Mayo, Ireland. They provided the link, and he experienced something new.

There’s a bounty of Ignatian sites where you can find daily prayer or even join Lenten retreats. Sacred Space, the Irish Jesuits website, which offers daily prayer all year long, is offering a Lenten retreat in conjunction with the site pray-as-you-go, led by the writer Margaret Silf. Visit sacredspace.ie, or https://pray-as-you-go.org/retreat/lent-2021 to join in.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network offers prayer that integrates Catholic social teaching.Visit them and sign up for daily Lenten prayer and activities at https://ignatiansolidarity.net/steadfast-lent-2021/.

Or google “an Ignatian guide to Lent” and find a lively daily YouTube primer on the traditions of Lent.

If you don’t use a computer, you can find Sacred Space and many other daily devotions in book form.

Speaking of spiritual reading, a perennial favorite of mine is Kerry Weber’s Mercy in the City: How to Feed the Hungry, Give Drink to the Thirsty, Visit the Imprisoned, and Keep Your Day Job, in which she attempts the corporal works of mercy during Lent. Both inspiring and humorous. (Loyola Press)

Another very readable book is Jesuit Father Kevin O’Brien’s The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius in Daily Life. Broken down into the traditional four weeks of the Exercises, you can make your way through this great book by Easter and beyond. This is the same Father O’Brien who celebrated Mass at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C., for our new president on Inauguration Day. (Also Loyola Press)

Pope Francis is a prolific writer. His Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future explores with his usual hopefulness a post-COVID world, full of commitment to economic justice, environmental health, and love of God and our world.

I’ve read Jesuit Father James Martin’s Jesus: A Pilgrimage twice. It’s his journey through the Holy Land, with a beautiful look at the Gospel in the places where it actually happened – the hillside where the Gerasene demoniac most likely appeared, the seaside where Jesus spoke from a boat moored in the water. It’s fascinating and also prayerful.

Fasting? How about giving up Twitter or Facebook, so you have time for other great reading? Almsgiving? Some have been forced to stay away from volunteer work during COVID, but we all know the many financial needs at Catholic Social Services and Catholic Community Services.

Many of us remember Anchorage’s late Deacon Ken Donohue. Someone asked him once how much they should give, and he cheerfully replied, “More!” A good Lenten mantra for us all.

Spring is coming, bringing thoughts of Resurrection. Give more to Lent and grace will follow.


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