The goal of Lent is to go into the desert, to allow ourselves to experience emptiness. We can’t hear God if we’re not listening. We won’t recognize our need for God unless we allow ourselves to become aware of our own lacking. In a culture that almost demands we be sated, stimulated and entertained 24/7, opting not to instantly gratify anything becomes an almost radical act of the will. It’s also an opportunity to really recognize, all we can offer, is our will to God.

How can we make sure this Lent is a fruitful one?

Begin with the question, “What is keeping me from a deeper relationship with Christ?” and start looking for the answer. Each of us struggles with the “thorn in our flesh” Saint Paul describes, and which we can only overcome by cooperating with God’s grace (which is always sufficient). What are my attachments? What are my idols? What keeps me at a distance from God? What keeps me from going deeper and deeper in? What sin strangles my faith? What sin hinders my ability to love God and others? 

There are some things we can do, to help ourselves to a more fruitful Lent.

(1) Proclaim a fast from noise, both visual and auditory in nature, even if only for 10 minutes a day. Cultivate quiet. Lent is the antidote for the craziness of modern life, in that it demands we not allow ourselves to be diverted or distracted by all we have at our fingertips. It may be in adoration, it may be on your drive to work, it may be while you exercise or 15 minutes before everyone else gets up for their day, but seek silence. 

(2) Give beyond what is organic. It’s easy to just put over whatever one has in one’s wallet at the offertory, or grab a can or two off the shelf for the food drive once a week. Instead, plan a gift with your family, from your grocery budget, of a meal, or a day of meals if you can. Make it a deliberate part of your Lenten experience to surrender the cheese pizza or the latte and place that money somewhere where it can feed someone who doesn’t have such a luxury or offer a new shirt, rather than merely the ones you’ve outgrown or dislike. Give cheerfully, give generously, and give regularly, so that it becomes something you do, something which becomes part of how you live. 

(3) Pray often. Pray daily. Whether via Scripture or listening to the Rosary, attending a daily Mass, reading reflections or the Divine Office, there are countless vehicles for prayer. Laudate and the Divine Office are two great apps for your phone, and the Magnificat is an awesome way to get little snatches of prayer in throughout the busy day.

The three temptations for Christ in the desert offered by the devil were pleasure, (which we seek to fight through fasting), power (which we seek to fight by alms giving or service) and pride (which we seek to fight through prayer). We come to Ash Wednesday knowing  we have appetites for physical things like those foods/attachments which we know we indulge in as a form of comfort. We come to Ash Wednesday knowing we often let the world become the master of our lives. We need Lent to reorient our hearts, to allow Christ to pour something in.
 
Finally, the best thing we can do to help ourselves have a fruitful Lent, is be patient with these 40 days and allow the emptying process takes place.