Ash Wednesday is coming up in less than two weeks! (It’s super late this year.)
The actual REQUIREMENTS of Catholics for the observance of Lent are pretty (comically, even?) slight: We are obligated to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (fasting here means one full meal and two small snacks, usually called collations), and to abstain from meat on Fridays (unless a solemnity falls on a Friday—no luck on that this year).
But most all of us are in the habit of “giving something up” for Lent. I’m a big supporter of that. However, over the past few years, I’ve also TAKEN UP SOMETHING, and I’m really convinced that this is key to having a more fruitful Lent.
Especially if I’ve given up something that is time consuming, like TV, or social media, or the radio, or yelling . . . with what am I going to fill that void in my life?
In addition to the fasting and abstinence of Lent, we are encouraged to increase our time spent in Mass, prayer, and with scripture.
Some things I’ve added during Lent have become important year-round devotions. Something like beginning the day with the Morning Offering, a few minutes of daily prayer and Bible reading in the morning, or getting to a daily Rosary . . . often Lent is just the kick in the pants I need to take it seriously.
When I give up TV, I take up good books instead. Some favorites over the years have been: Story of a Soul, Introduction to the Devout Life, In Sinu Jesu, Orthodoxy, Around the Year With the von Trapp Family (it’s back in print!), or for fiction: Jane Eyre, Kristin Lavransdatter, The Agony and the Ecstasy, A Tale of Two Cities, or Les Miserables (get the Denny translation, it moves some of the sewer stuff to an appendix 🚽🤐).
For families, counting to forty before meals is a simple addition/sacrifice for folks of all ages. Beginning a habit of family evening prayers, be it a whole Rosary, or one Our Father, can be a lasting change. Giving up screens in the car could mean saying a (captive) family Rosary instead, or listening to an audio version of the Bible. I’m a big fan of the version by TAN books, available here or on Audible here. I also love their Catholic history series, the Story of Civilization.
I wanted to share a few more resources here, that might help make your Lent even more meaningful.
- Hosanna by Take Up and Read
Hosanna is a women’s Lectio Divina-style dive into the Gospel of Matthew and the beatitudes, with Bible readings, meditations by a variety of writers (including yours truly), journaling space, weekly check-ins, and recommended memory verses.
If you’d benefit from some accountability, and whom among us wouldn’t? There is a free downloadable Hosanna Group Guide available here. The book ships 1 or 2 day from Amazon, is $22 (currently discounted to $19.80) and can be ordered here.
2. To the End by Blessed is She
To the End is another Lenten women’s scripture study/journal, written by Jenna Guizar, the founder of Blessed is She. It focuses on verses from the Gospel of John, highlights Jesus’ sacrificial love for us, and encourages us to reflect on the characteristics of Jesus and how we can grow in virtue in our own lives.
So, what’s the difference between the offerings from Take Up and Read and Blessed is She? Honestly, I have them both in hand, and I think either would be an excellent addition to your Lent. You can probably just go ahead and pick the cover you like better. 😆🤫
Both contain scripture, a writer’s personal reflections, writing prompts, and suggested meditation topics. Both have space for writing, but aren’t dated for the year, so could theoretically be used again.
Hosanna is a more straightforward focus on the Gospel of Matthew. The readings for the day are longer, and if you choose to follow all the writing prompts, this book could be used for a daily hour of study, prayer, and meditation. But the days don’t build on each other as much. If you’ll maybe miss days here and there, I think it wouldn’t be a problem to just skip over those days and stay on track.
To the End has a more structured feel to it, in that it wants to guide us from one point to another. The daily readings and reflections are shorter, but I would want to keep up with the days. So if I missed one, I’d want to take the time to catch up on both the next day.
3. Genesis to Jesus
If you’re looking to do something with your husband, or with a group of men and women, and you prefer something with a visual component . . . check out the Genesis to Jesus Study. It’s a FREE streaming video series, plus a workbook and associated book, put out by Scott Hahn’s St. Paul Center.
The series covers the whole of salvation history over the course of Lent! See more here, sign up for the free videos, and order your workbook ($16), book ($28 with workbook), and/or leader guide ($36).
4. All the New Lent Stuff Here in the CAY Shop
Speaking of what to do with found time . . . I took an unplanned month-long hiatus from social media, and ended up creating a whole slew of Lent resources. Maybe too much? Hopefully not, though I am a known overdoer of things.
New in the shop, you’ll find . . .
St Joseph Prayer after Grace for March in black and in purple
Counting to Forty after Grace/ Simple 1 Page Lent Countdown Calendar in black and in purple
And for all of the booklets in one place: The BIG Catholic All Lent Booklet Bundle
The Catholic All March Booklet and the Stations of the Cross Booklet are both also available as paperbacks on Amazon. The printable pdf March booklet has a short illustrated version of the Stations of the Cross. The full version, with prayers, Bible readings, reflections, and the Stabat Mater is in its own Stations of the Cross pdf booklet (just to keep March from being super long). The Amazon paperback version of Catholic All March has the full version of the Stations of the Cross. The Stations alone are also available as a paperback.
Lastly, is the Printable Lent DIY Set, which includes a print and cut Lent Countdown Calendar, posters and quotes, Voluntary Lenten Discipline slips, and a printable Lenten Sacrifice bean jar label. (There’s no overlap between this set and the booklet bundle.)
So . . . what do you think? Have any plans to TAKE UP something for Lent?