As I said in an earlier article, many Catholic teachers are encouraging Catholics to do something “positive” that will help them draw closer to God in place of “giving something up for Lent.” This might be going to weekday Mass, spending extra time in prayer, or reaching out to those in need. Again, there is nothing wrong with this advice . . . as far as it goes. But if we want to truly honor the purpose of Lent, we want to go beyond merely performing a “positive” action during the 40 days of the season.
In her wisdom, the Church gives us these seasons of preparation – Advent and Lent – not only to help us truly understand the feasts they precede, but to remind us of what we should be doing as disciples of Jesus every single day. It’s the nature of the lay state, living in the world, that we get distracted. We’re called to live as disciples and so to transform the world around us. But all to often we get distracted and end up being transformed by the world instead. Advent and Lent are seasons to call us back to the Covenant – and back to true discipleship.
Think about the practices that the Church encourages us to participate in during these seasons: prayer, sacrifice and service. Are these really things that Christians should be doing just twice a year? Of course not. These are activities we should be engaged in every single day.
The road to Christian perfection is long. It’s a constant process of conversion of heart and character formation. And habits are the most powerful tools we have to help us in this process. A habit is an act or a choice that – performed over and over again until it becomes automatic – becomes part of our character. When we consciously and deliberately form good habits – virtues – we cooperate with grace and with the Holy Spirit to make us into the masterpieces that God created us to be. The spiritual life is really a series of spiritual habits that make communing with God second nature to us. Likewise, the moral life is a series of habits that make participating in God’s goodness second nature to us.
So instead of doing good for a season, let’s use these 40 days to try to draw our everyday lives back into God’s presence. Let’s use our time this Lent to begin a spiritual habit that we can continue throughout the year!
Choose something small and doable. I know the temptation is to go all-out and promise Jesus that you’ll spend a Holy Hour with Him every day. But if you’re nowhere close to that, you won’t last through Lent, let alone continue the practice beyond Lent. Instead, do 15 minutes of spiritual reading each day. Pray one decade of the Rosary each day. Vow to smile more at work. Do something small that you can do every day without struggle. You can go beyond that on days you feel like it. But commit to the small habit. Every. Single. Day.
And then commit to performing the habit beyond Lent. There is no reason our good intention should end once we celebrate Easter. Let this Lent launch you into a new habit that will help you grow in your spiritual life. Maybe by next Advent you’ll be in a slightly different place in your spiritual life. You can then choose another habit that will move you forward a little bit more. So season by season, year by year, we can grow closer to God and live for Him more completely. Now THAT would be a Lent to remember!
If you’d like help growing in the spiritual habits, join us for the Keys to Spiritual Growth program. This program will help you grow in five key spiritual habits that form the core of a “rule of life” for lay people. You can get started by joining our free “Postulant” membership. Join us for book chats, ongoing Q&A, document studies, and more. From the Abbey Postulants are also the first ones to know when the next part of the Keys to Spiritual Growth program becomes available.
This Lent bundle includes five titles from Lighthouse Catholic Media / The Augustine Institute at a discounted price. Listen to one CD each week of Lent and learn how to enter more deeply into this liturgical season and the Paschal Mystery!