Ash Wednesday: humble suggestion for Lent

Posted on February 28, 2017 in: Articles

By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.

In the last issue of The Catholic Leader, I wrote about how Lent always sneaks up on me. Most years I’m often trying to decide how I want to observe Lent as the sun sets on Ash Wednesday.

I also noted that over the years, thanks to a priest’s suggestion, I’ve focused more on doing something special than on giving something up. Still, as I wrote that last week I still didn’t have a clue about what I would be doing special this Lent.

Now, as I write this the day before Ash Wednesday, I have my goal: I am going to spend more time with the Lord each day of Lent (even counting Sundays). If it’s true that our character is often forged by those we hang out with, this intention should do me a lot of good.

After all, the point of Lent is to conform our mind ever more closely to Jesus’ own. I’m trusting that the more time I spend consciously in his presence, the more his goodness and Godness will rub off on me.

Once the Lord gave me the insight to use Lent to spend more time with him, I had to face a question: Exactly how would I do that? After a little reflection this morning, I think I have the start of a plan – hoping it continues to develop and mature as Lent unfolds.

  • Begin my day by reading and reflecting on the daily readings from the Mass, using my phone and tablet app called “Daily Readings.” Wife Jane and I do this from time to time, but during Lent I want to be much more consistent.
  • As soon as I’m done with the readings, I’m going to my “Jesuit Prayer” app, selecting the “Daily Inspiration” option and scrolling down to the “Ignatian Reflection” and prayer below it. (You might also want to check out the other options.)
  • I pray each morning and night, but in Lent I’m going to spend a bit more time with morning prayer, focusing on my breathing and opening my mind and heart in solitude to whatever God has to say.
  • I’m going to work harder to keep my focus on the movements of the Mass on weekends. My mind loves to wander – and I usually love to follow along. During Lent I’m going to be more intentional about my presence at Mass.

Mixed effort

One other thing I want to do this Lent is to once again participate in Rice Bowl, the Catholic Relief Service (CRS) program which we have always appreciated because it is such a solid “in-home, family-centered” Lenten observance.

I call it a “mixed effort” because it involves a little giving up and a little doing something extra.

Some parishes, to their credit, make a big deal of it. Others not so much. But  anyone can participate – single, married, with or without children of any age. To find out more, here’s the link to the site. Spending five minutes on Ash Wednesday checking out this great family program would be a great way for you to kick off your own Lenten observances.

Little miracle

Little miracle -- when I went to Rice Bowl’s site moments ago, I learned it has its own app with its own daily reflection during Lent.

So guess what? I downloaded it, set a daily giving goal, and now I’m going to add it to the list of apps I’m going to access every morning.

Thank you, Rice Bowl. Thank you, Jesus.

Have a great Lent!