Everyone is different. I know that some people wake up in the morning at the very last possible minute. They basically decide, "What is the very last second I can wake up and still get to work on time." That's not me. I could think of nothing worse than having to get up and rush in the morning. I need time to ease into the day. Part of the reason I like to wake up early is so that I am not rushed.
That's why I recognize that I need a little extra time getting ready for Lent. While some people can leap out of the gate on Ash Wednesday, I need a lot of lead time. I need time to think through the plan. What am I going to give up? What am I going to do? Where is the Lord asking me to grow? What virtue do I need to practice? What vice do I need to mortify? I may even need to begin the practices a bit early. For instance, in years that I've given up coffee, I usually start easing into it a couple of weeks out. Otherwise, Ash Wednesday comes and I hate Lent by about 2pm.
So, if you're at all like me, now is a good time to begin getting a plan in place. Maybe even test driving a few penances or disciplines. Thinking about adding some prayer time to your life? Give it a whirl now. Try it on for size. This lead time also gives us the opportunity to be intentional about our Lent. Instead of just giving something up, we can think about what would really help us in our life. In other words, what can I give up that really will help me to be a better disciple of the Lord?
Another thing that we can do for Lent is to live it with each other. Many moons ago when I was in the seminary, I got to spend a few summers working in the Navy. One of the things that I really enjoyed was doing physical training together. Something about doing it together really encouraged me. Similarly, Lent is a time of spiritual training. Find ways to live Lent together. Have your friends help you to keep to your disciplines. Have your friends pray for you and with you to keep strong in your Lenten program. It's easier with a friend.
There are obviously a million things that we can do for Lent. What I provide here is by no means an exhaustive list. I throw these out as conversation starters:
Daily Mass (this is a great one!)
30 Minutes of Meditation every day. (Don't know how to do 30 minutes of mediation? Ask for help or read a classic spiritual writer for help).
Pray the Rosary every day (this is a great thing to do with a friend)
Every time you walk into the Catholic Center during Lent, go immediately to the chapel for a brief visit to the Lord.
Don't listen to anything when you walk to and from classes.
Shut your phone off for various parts of the day
Get a real alarm clock and put your cell phone in a drawer far away from your bed
Give away things that you don't need or use
Struggling with pornography? Ask a friend to help you by becoming accountable to them and having them pray for you.
Angry with someone? Pray for them every day
Overly concerned about people's opinions of you? Find ways to humble yourself
Given over to too much luxury--food, drink, clothes etc? Fast and donate money.
Envious of others? Look for ways to promote others.
Slothful? Wake up early and at the same time 5 or 6 days a week and pray
Read more. Watch less TV. Read more and spend less time on social media.
Find ways to be more silent in your life.
Think about seeking out spiritual direction every other week during Lent. Now to be clear, spiritual direction is not a long, drawn out chitchat session. It's not a counseling session. It's about talking about your prayer life, your moral life, your life of discipleship, and to understand where the Lord might be leading you. It's about your relationship with the Lord. Spiritual direction needn't be lengthy. It should be direct and honest. It's about taking the next step. There are times in life when someone needs a professional counselor. That is a positive thing. But that is not spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is, in some ways, a way of holding ourselves accountable.
Go to confession weekly during Lent.
Read the life of a saint.
Reach out to one person a day who seems to have disappeared from the practice of the faith.
Extend love towards those who seem on the outside and who need a friend.
Invite someone to Sunday Mass.
Decide every day that you will find an opportunity to be embarrassed by sharing your faith.
Visit the sick. If not in person, then call.
Be generous in kind words
Spend time each day thinking about Christ's sufferings on Calvary.
Tithe 10% of whatever you make during Lent to charity.
Spend time hungry during Lent. Fasting is important.
Okay....these are all just conversation starters. Lent begins in three weeks. It is a great season of grace. It is an amazing opportunity to grow in our friendship with the Lord. We are in it together. The list above is not comprehensive nor should we think, "Yeah, I will do all of that!" That is doomed to fail. But, we should pray in these days before Lent and ask the Lord, "What should I do? What are you asking of me? Help me, Lord and show me."
Of course, there's a risk to all of this. If you take Lent seriously, your life will change and you'll feel compelled to follow Christ more faithfully and more radically. The alternative is that we can be big babies and try to live a life of comfort.
Dear Friends, as I prepare for Lent, I take great solace in knowing that I will be living it with you. We are in this together. Lent is a time that is deeply personal, but it is also something that we do together. In a very beautiful way, the more we live it together, the more personal it is. And the more we take it personally, the more we strengthen one another. Let's use these next few weeks to come up with a plan for a great Lent. If there's any way that I can help you, let me know. BU Catholic Center . . . Lent is coming.