Preparing for Lent

Since Lent is itself a time of preparation, the idea of preparing for Lent may strike you as odd; but, rather like the vigil of a feast enabling us to anticipate what is to come, a little planning beforehand will make our Lenten journey more fruitful. In the monastery we write a Lent Bill: a note addressed to our superior (or, in her case, another nun) detailing what we wish to give up and what we wish to take on by way of penance, and submitting it all to her judgement. So, if she thinks that some picayune sacrifice of sugar in tea or salt on eggs is going to make us crotchety, she will refuse and probably impose something much harder, without any feel-good factor in it!

The point of the Lent Bill is that it gives us an opportunity to think about our personal Lent, as distinct from our community observance. Each of us takes stock of her life and thinks about what needs to be addressed. For one, it may be a tendency to talk too much; for another, it may be a tendency to avoid engagement with people; a casualness may have crept into our lectio divina; or we may have noticed ourselves daydreaming or half-hearted or otherwise deficient in our service. The chances are that the same faults and weaknesses will appear year after year on our Lent Bills, because human nature does not change very much. What matters is the love and devotion with which we try to put right some of the negligences of other times.

If you do a quick internet search, you will find many sites offering advice about how to make your Lent more fruitful. Over the next few days, I shall be offering my own ha’pennorth. Today, may I give you just one pointer? The classical penances of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For most people, that means taking on more prayer, giving up some food or drink and performing some act of charity or benevolence. These are all good, but do please bear in mind that merely giving something up (e.g. wine or television) shouldn’t result in a vacuum — money or time saved is meant to be spent on God and others; dieting is not fasting; and prayer is more than just saying prayers.

We can make our Lent so busy with different ‘practices’ that we ignore or even subvert its point. Lent is meant to open us to the mystery of God’s love and redemption. It is worth spending some time preparing for it; and one of the best of all ways is to reflect on your life and, if you belong to the Catholic tradition, make your confession and ask God’s help to see what you REALLY need to change.


6 thoughts on “Preparing for Lent”

  1. Thank you, Sister, for that timely and wise advice…real food for thought on this snowy morning. One of my besetting sins is collecting books, especially on spiritual matters, which I am excited about reading but often end up only skimming and promising myself I will read them properly later. I am going to my bookshelves right now to pick one for each week of Lent and set aside time each day to read and, hopefully, profit from them! I am often ashamed of my shelves full of books when I hear of communities around the world where one single book is treasured and shared amongst a whole schoolroom, for example. Maybe I need to give some away too!

    I am sure that lots of us who follow your blog will find inspiration for Lent from your writing – thank you.

  2. Good morning Sister. I will look forward to your Lenten advice. Every year I prepare for Lent, in this Year of Faith I hope to improve.
    I use the booklet ‘Walk With Me’ and find this helpful and inspirational.
    Warm wishes & prayers

  3. Looking forward to your pre lenten refletions. Might you include references/ suggestions for other sites that contain meditative exercises or fruitful reflections for the season of lent? With thanks.

  4. Thank you. As always much food for thought here. I remember one Lent, solely for the smug feeling that carried me through the weeks of fasting from wine! This makes me feel slightly better about not having been able to repeat it. Mmmn something more fruitful then.

  5. I’ve been thinking about Lent for a few days, but it has been shared with the busyness of other things intruding.

    I suspect that going to HC with the imposition of Ashes will mark it out for me, it usually does.

    But first thing is preparation for confession which is such an integral part of my routine for Lent, that reconciliation for the small things which place a barrier between myself and God is so important.

    From than, I will allow Lent to proceed with bible study, the continuation of my Course and still seeking that discernment of God’s will which remains so elusive at the moment.

  6. Thank you for all your comments. You will appreciate that the news from Rome slightly fluttered the dovecote! Or rather, we thought the best response we could make was to spend an extra hour in prayer, so I didn’t have time to answer any of your comments.

    Paul, I hope you don’t mind my saying that I think you are in a better position than I am to find resources which may be helpful for Lent. I don’t have much time for surfing the web and am reluctant to post links to material I haven’t properly assessed, but I do try to share what I can of the life we live here in the hope that it may give readers something worthwhile.

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