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Pam Spano shares what she has learned through some challenging spiritual reading she has taken on during the season of Lent.

The older I get the challenges of Lent become, well, more challenging. Giving up chocolate or some other treat just doesn’t seem to be sufficient and, frankly, seems childish and too easy.  

In some years, I would overwhelm myself by reading too many books at the same time and not getting anything out of any of them. Or not living up to my “promise” of saying a novena, praying the Rosary, or attending Stations.  

In the last few years, I’ve learned to keep it simple and I’ve noticed an improvement in the way I feel about my time spent during Lent. Though we have a couple of weeks to go this year, I feel more accomplished than I have in years past.  

This year my daughter gave me the book by Dan Burke, Spiritual Warfare and The Discernment of Spirits. I’ve been taking my time reading this. A chapter a day at most and taking notes. It’s been a powerful and insightful read and I heartily recommend it. The discernment of Spirits is something I’ve never really given any thoughts about. I do now.  

One of the more powerful parts of the book (at least to me because it was so relatable), was the author’s relationship with his mother and the things she said and did to him. Her words hit him harder than a physical slap (I know the feeling), but he turned to Scripture and found these words of comfort: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. (Ephesians 1:3-8a)  




Those verses hit me hard. My mother once told me that I didn’t deserve a mother like her and I belonged in a foster home. Those two pieces of Scripture brought me more comfort than I have ever known.   

I’ve also joined the 40-Day Challenge on the Hallow app. It is only available through subscription, but well worth it. This challenge is a guided journey through Lent based on the book by Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ: He Leadeth Me: An Extraordinary Testament of Faith. 

Each day a cast of Catholics such as Mark Wahlberg, Jonathan Roumie, and Fr. Mike Schmitz (among others) recount Fr. Ciszek’s struggles with his priesthood and profound suffering. There is visual prayer and storytelling. The talks can be as short as five minutes or as long as 20, but all offer insights into Fr. Ciszek’s life as well as relatable stories to our own. It’s an amazing series.  

This year, I also decided to do almsgiving. I kept it local as much as possible. I feel as a family, we’ve been given much and I want to share that.  

But what did I give up for Lent, you may ask? I gave up shopping. I know that sounds strange. Yes, we still need groceries, household items, and such, but I don’t need another purse, a piece of jewelry, clothing items, or shoes. I have multiple wish lists on different sites and when there’s a sale (a big weakness for me!), I ignore it. There will be another sale. There always is. For me, this is my biggest accomplishment!  




What are your challenges of Lent? I pray that you feel accomplished during Lent and that your spirit is lifted as Easter approaches.  

I’ll leave you with this prayer from Dan Burke’s book:  

Holy Spirit, lead me to the wisdom today that unlocks the path to God’s will for me in the large and small choices of my life so that in all my thoughts, words, and deeds, I might give glory to God. 


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Copyright 2024 Pam Spano
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