For the last two years, I’ve heard many people say that they didn’t need or want to observe Lent because we’ve already been forced to give up so much. Believe me, I get it! Unfortunately, this is a misrepresentation of the true spirit of Lent. Sure, we have been taught to give up things for Lent. However, that is only one minor aspect of an entire season of renewal and enrichment that can truly transform our perspective on the otherwise arid experience of the pandemic.
Lent tends to get a bad rap as a “downer” experience—a season that is characterized by harsh words such as self-denial, sacrifice, mortification, self-restraint, and discipline. This has led far too many to conclude that the goal of Lent is to make oneself miserable!
It is much preferable to think of Lent as a time of sobriety, something that indeed requires discipline and self-denial but that is also a positive experience—one that is not hindered by the dulling of the senses or debilitating hangover-like doldrums. Lent is to be a time of retreat—an opportunity to experience renewal. I would argue that the experience of the pandemic is most appropriate for the season of Lent, just as the diminishing light of late autumn and early winter is appropriate for the season of Advent and the darkness of the winter solstice is appropriate for the celebration of the coming of the Light of the World.
In other words, just as the Church has “spiritualized” events like the winter solstice, we can and should spiritualize the experience of the pandemic with the season of Lent. The isolation and restrictions of the pandemic are actually conducive to a renewed attention on our prayer life, our almsgiving, and our fasting. No doubt, it is the fasting aspect that makes us cringe, because we don’t want to give up any more than we already have. My point is, we can focus on what we have already been forced to give up and bring those realities and experiences to prayer and ask God to help those losses transform us so that we might find new life in the midst of our losses. A great way to spiritualize this stretch of 40 days in the midst of the ongoing pandemic is to focus and reflect on the prayers and Scripture readings of the Lenten season, allowing God to speak to our hearts.
Focus on the Scripture readings for the season with the help of the Sunday Connection. Then, as always, Loyola Press is providing a plethora of rich resources to enhance our Lenten experience. Here are just a few for your enrichment.
- Liturgical Year: Lent—Bookmark this link for a full selection of Lenten articles, activities, prayers, and videos.
- Lenten Read-Along—The featured book is Braving the Thin Places by Julianne Stanz. Special features to accompany the series will be on IgnatianSpirituality throughout Lent.
- Living Lent Daily—Receive daily e-mails featuring content by Fr. Joe Tetlow, SJ. The series is inspired by Fr. Tetlow’s book, You Have Called Me by My Name.
- 40 Ideas for 40 Days—Explore our popular annual offering of Lenten activities from the deep archives of Catechist’s Journey. While organized according to the 2022 calendar, the activities aren’t limited to just one day of Lent.
- An Ignatian Prayer Adventure—Eric Clayton, author of Cannonball Moments, will share weekly dotMagis reflections on this eight-week adapted version of the Spiritual Exercises.
Stay tuned for a couple of new resources for catechists to be released in the next weeks here on Catechist’s Journey. Subscribe so you don’t miss an update.
May these rich and renewing resources help to transform an otherwise arid and stifling pandemic experience into a life-giving 40-day retreat!