Happy Mardi Gras! After a January that had approximately 82 days in it, we are somehow already halfway through February, and staring Lent right in the face.
And this year is gearing up to be extra Lenty, thwarting all the Catholic star-crossed lovers, who will be fasting and getting ashes rather than eating a steak dinner.
As I’ve written before, Lent is my absolute favorite liturgical season. That might seem slightly dour, but y’all. I know myself and my weaknesses, and how much I need this yearly encouragement to refocus and realign my heart to Christ.
It’s like when you’re feeling pudgy and bloated between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve — and you just know you’ve got to ease up on the wine or cheese or exotic chocolate or something — and get some discipline before you’re just too far gone. Am I right?!
Only unlike New Year’s diet resolutions that fizzle out after a couple weeks, Lent is so much better.
Because we are all in it together. Because our loving Holy Mother Church doesn’t just tell us to go be good children, and to suck it up when it’s hard. She actually walks with us, gently and firmly guiding us towards greater holiness and union with Christ, through liturgy and the Sacraments. There is power in communal prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
At its heart, the season of Lent is not about our sins, but about Christ’s great love. It’s for renewing our souls through deeper, more humble, and more intimate contact with Christ and the Sacraments. If we can pray, fast, and work toward that goal, then it’s a great Lent.
While there are a myriad of wonderful resources to help you make the most of the next 40 days, these are the top five that I’m utilizing this year:
#1: The Pray More (Virtual) Lenten Retreat, from John Paul and Annie at Pray More Novenas
This is the second year that John Paul and Annie have offered this wonderful virtual retreat. When you register, you have access to five dynamic speakers, 16 video presentations, and 16 reflective study guides. Topics include prayer, grace, relationships, and much more.
#2 Meditation on the Seven Deadly Sins (DVD), by Bishop Robert Barron, at Word On Fire Ministries
I’ve owned this DVD series for several years, and my husband and I make it a point to watch it sometime during Lent. Bishop Barron is a masterful teacher, and we always end the series very convicted (in the best possible way) and with renewed purpose to amend our hearts. I highly recommend it!
#3 Above All Lenten Study, from Take Up & Read
I can’t wait to dive into this gorgeous Lenten devotional! Daily Scripture readings, devotional passages, and plenty of space to journal are just some of its highlights! From the Take Up & Read website: “Above All is designed to help you reflect on all aspects of your life, particularly those that you may have pushed to the back burner. It’s filled with tools to help you discover which areas need greater care and tending, and is meant to inspire and motivate you to become your absolute truest self, so that come Easter, you can flourish as God intended.”
#4 The Jesus Tree: Lenten Scripture Activity, from Nancy at Do Small Things with Love
I’ve had my eye on this for the past couple of years, and I’m SO excited to be trying it out this Lent! Nancy at Do Small Things with Love is incredibly talented and imaginative — she’s created the Lenten version of the Jesse Tree, where families can work their way through the entire life of Christ during the 40 days of Lent. Nancy incorporates the images on the ornaments (which are available as patterns for making out of felt, as printable full-color ornaments, OR as black and white coloring pages) along with Scripture verses from the Gospel of Matthew, for a simple and beautiful Lenten devotion.
This beautiful Holy Week journal was born from the contemplative heart of Sara of the blog To Jesus, Sincerely. It features Bible readings, reflections, prayers, and journal prompts, as well as space for journaling your thoughts and prayers. In Sara’s words: “Imagine yourself encountering Holy Week for the first time. Place yourself into history. You’ll walk by His side every step of the way. You’ll experience the fear, the pain, the suffering, and finally, the joy of this pivotal week in Salvation History.”
I’d love to hear from you — what are your favorite Lenten resources?
May we live these words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI these next 40 days:
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us begin our Lenten journey with joyful confidence. May we feel deep within us the call to conversion, to ‘return to God with all our heart,’ accepting His grace, which makes us new men and women.” // Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI