Keep the Lent Momentum Going: A Lesson in Spiritual Physics

Ferris wheel in motion

If you are like me, on Ash Wednesday you make about 20 Lenten promises: I’m going to give up sweets, pray evening prayer every day, go to weekday Mass twice a week, give a weekly donation to a charity, etc. These promises usually last until the following Friday, and then it all falls apart. How do we keep up the momentum for 40 days?

Think back to your high-school physics lesson on momentum. An object at rest stays at rest; in order to move, a force must be applied to it. If an opposing force acts on the object from a different direction—such as friction or an obstacle—the object will slow down or stop moving. If a force is applied to the object in the same direction as its motion—such as a strong wind, or gravity pulling an object downhill—the object will continue moving and accelerate.

If we apply this simple physics lesson to Lent, we see that our mistake is in assuming that we can go from a stop to maximum speed in one day and maintain that speed for the entire season of Lent (at which point many of us come to a dead stop again after Easter). Instead, we need a force to give us our initial push, an impulse. We need to reduce the friction that slows us down. Finally, we need to keep increasing the force to help us pick up speed so that we will continue our spiritual progress after Easter.

The Impulse

Rather than doing the “same old, same old” this Lent because it’s what you’ve always done or because it’s what you think you’re “supposed” to do, spend some time in prayer to find something that really motivates you, something to which you feel God is calling you. Find something that gets you fired up and gets your blood pumping, such as a particular social justice issue, a specific style of prayer that bears fruit, a commitment to your domestic church, or the writings of your favorite saint. If you are excited for your Lenten journey, you will be able to get yourself moving easily. Pray for God to push you in the right direction.

Reduce Friction

Once you’ve decided on your Lenten practices, think of all of the friction and obstacles you may encounter: laziness, busyness, overcommitment, sickness, impatience, negativity. These things tend to slow us down during Lent and can often bring our practices to a premature stop. Look closely to see where there is friction in your life, and plan on what to do when you encounter it. Then, when you find yourself in the third week of Lent and you are still stuck on the second page of your spiritual reading, you will recognize what slowed you down. Find a way to remove it and get moving again rather than giving up in despair.

Increase Force

Finally, you want to build momentum, not just maintain it. Therefore, you need to increase the force that keeps you in motion throughout Lent. It is easier to add practices rather than to start them all at once. Build your momentum by gradually increasing the time you spend in prayer or in the commitments you make week by week. If there are several practices you want to try this Lent, add a different practice each week instead of starting them all at once. Continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will be a constant force guiding you throughout the season and beyond.

How will you keep the momentum going throughout Lent?

Scripture Skits—Free New Testament Plays

Scripture Skits - New Testament

Children excel at pretending, so get them out of their seats to learn about Scripture with our free New Testament plays. Key teachings of Jesus from the Gospels form the basis for these Scripture skits: Jesus Teaches How to Live and Love Jesus on the Mountainside: The Feeding of the Five Thousand and the Sermon […]

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Preparing for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday - girl with ashes

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, so we’ll take all the children in the religious education program to church for Mass. It’s the same Mass the full parish is invited to, and it’s usually crowded. By taking the children to this Mass, we emphasize that not only is Ash Wednesday something special, but that we are part of […]

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God Provides! Small Faith Groups Update

small group

As I reported a couple of weeks ago, I am assisting Christ the King Parish in Chicago in implementing small faith groups for the Lenten season. We did many preparations to get this initiative off the ground, including the following: recruiting small-group leaders displaying posters and signs on parish grounds training leaders advertising with bulletin […]

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Getting Ready for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday - girl with ashes

Realizing that over the next few days, many of you will be preparing people for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, I thought I would remind you of some resources that might be of assistance to you. Ashes (blog post) What’s That on Your Forehead? (my popular Ash Wednesday post) Lent FAQ with Joe […]

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More than a Sacrifice: Making Lent Count

Lent - cross with purple cloth

“So, what are you giving up for Lent?” This is a common question among Catholics, young and old alike. But Lent is about more than giving something up. Through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, Lent prepares us for Easter. Yet when young people focus on what they give up for Lent, this season […]

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A Lent of Mercy

foil Stations of the Cross

My third graders always embrace Lent. I will include all my usual Lenten activities this year, but because this is the Year of Mercy, I will be adding some new activities that will help my students perform works of mercy. The first activity will be a visual reminder of Lent. (My young students are visual […]

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Expect the Unexpected

open book

This week in third-grade faith formation class, we were to introduce the students to the seven Sacraments, focusing on two of the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism and Confirmation. Excited to share this lesson, I brought pictures of my own Baptism and Confirmation to show the children. We had barely started with class prayer and introducing the […]

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Beginning a Homily Prep Ministry

Is preaching homilies a challenge? Certainly. Any congregation can appreciate the fact that it is not possible to be spectacular week in and week out. By the same token, this is precisely why (theoretically) only specific individuals are ordained for this task: they are supposed to be individuals with a charism for preaching who have undergone […]

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Great Resources for Sacramental Preparation

God's Gift resources for sacramental preparation

I’m very excited to tell you about some wonderful resources for sacramental preparation from Loyola Press! A new edition of the already popular God’s Gift program for First Eucharist and First Reconciliation, available in English and bilingual versions, includes some wonderful new features: God’s Gift Intermediate was developed to pass on the truth and beauty […]

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