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Christine Johnson looks back on past penitential seasons, noting what didn't work out, and what has been spiritually fruitful.

Once again, we are coming up quickly on Lent: February 22 will be here before we know it! This penitential season seemed so much simpler when I was young. I’d give up chocolate or chewing gum or something like that, then go right back to having it again on Easter morning. (That first bite of chocolate Easter Bunny was always amazing!)

As an adult, I learned that just giving up some comfort wasn’t all we could do for Lent. We could take on a new aspect of the faith that we hope to continue after Lent is over. We could focus on improving one area of our spiritual lives. We could focus on reading a particular book or keeping a particular journal for the 40-day season.

One year, my spiritual advisor asked me to try to ask God each morning what He wanted from me that day, then do it. Some days it was a call to focus on loving each person in front of me. Some days it was to pray an extra Rosary. Other days it was to abstain from something I partake in regularly.

Another year, I gave up complaining for Lent. My girls were involved in different activities that met almost every day in different parts of town—including times when our older daughter might have a soccer game an hour away at the same time as her sister’s ballet class. I’d gotten in the horrible habit of griping constantly about my need to bilocate. I felt like God was really calling me to step back and fix my attitude. (For what it’s worth, I’m thinking I might want to do this again this year.)

One thing I have learned over the years is that you can’t do everything. Pick one or two things and do your best. You aren’t going to be a saint because of one Lenten season.




If you’re stuck, I’d like to offer a few things you can do for Lent:

  1. Add one new prayer tradition to your routine: the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, Morning and/or Evening Prayer (from Liturgy of the Hours), or even just adding a simple Memorare to your day. You could even do something like make the Sign of the Cross whenever you hear sirens as a way to pray for the first responders and those they’re helping.
  2. Read a book or use a journal to deepen your faith life. I’ve prayed my way through the Memento Mori book during more than one Lent. I’m considering picking up Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. You could read 33 Days to Morning Glory and make a Marian Consecration. Pick up a biography of a saint whose life interests you. (I happen to really like reading the YA biographies.)
  3. Read the daily Mass readings, even if you don’t go to Mass that day. Maybe keep a journal of your thoughts on the Scripture readings. The Church put so much thought into arranging our readings for Mass, and when you look through them each day, you can see how our salvation story plays out. (Plus, you really get some great stories in daily Mass that you miss on Sundays.)
  4. Abstain from something. Maybe you really, really love making salted caramel mochas at home, and you decide to be less extravagant during Lent. Maybe you pick a second day each week to abstain from meat. (I had a friend who would abstain from meat all the way through Lent. The year I did that was not the best of Lenten sacrifices because I could NOT stop moaning about how much I missed meat.) When you feel the ache of really wanting to have it, offer up that tiny suffering.

Remember, pick one or two things, tops! You can’t do it all, and doing one small thing with the right intentions will be far more spiritually beneficial than trying to give your spiritual life a complete overhaul!


Click to tweet:
Giving up some comfort isn’t all we can do for Lent. #CatholicMom

Pray with me:

Lord, please help us and guide us as we choose a way to honor your sacrifice during this Lenten season. Give us strength to persevere and help us to understand how we are growing spiritually in the process. Amen.



Copyright 2023 Christine Johnson
Images: Canva