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What makes a good Lent?

What makes a good Lent? Many of the faithful prescribe to doing something positive and incorporating the Lenten focus of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Practically, as a fresh way of embracing the deeper conversion of our hearts this Lent, we propose focusing each day on one of the corporal works of mercy – feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead; or the spiritual works of mercy – admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries and pray for the living and the dead.

With that said, during Lent we are called to mind our sins, amend our lives and voluntarily suffer in order to be more closely conformed to the cross of Christ. Or perhaps more simply, we are to grow in holiness.

On the one hand, the things we do in Lent should not be seen only in relation to 40 days but to the rest of our lives, so it’s always good to embrace practices that we intend to be committed to, not only for the duration of Lent but beyond as well.

Regarding fasting, and especially with the ‘normal’ phenomenon of ‘giving something up,’ it is important to realise what ought to be happening there. We are not to just grit our teeth and simply try to ‘get Lent over with,’ as these practices are meant to change us and assist in our growth in holiness.

Fasting and other ascetical practices are but the process of finding God truly attractive. When we curb our appetites, this magnifies the void in our heart that we may usually give to something else – be it food, drink, lust, entertainment or the like – and we can then turn to the Lord so He can fill it. If we grit our teeth and push through without turning to the Lord (prayer) – and then to others (almsgiving) – we can miss the boat. Oftentimes, ‘success’ in this light is met with increased pride (look at how good a job I did in not eating any chocolate all of Lent).

A good measuring stick for a “good Lent” is: “How will I find God more attractive? What does He want me to do in order to give my heart more entirely to Him? And when Lent concludes, do I experience greater freedom and find God more attractive than before?

In practice, resolutions should be concrete and achievable. And as we journey through Lent itself, re-evaluation and intentional adjustment are far better than absentmindedly watering things down or giving up. – Fathers Daniel Scheidt and Chris Lapp @ today’s catholic.org

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