Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.
I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.
Lent in Your Email Inbox
- Free daily Lent reflections from Father Robert Barron from Word on Fire Catholic Ministries: Anything that comes from Word on Fire is always rife with spiritual wisdom. Reflect daily on Christ’s journey to Calvary from the comfort of your office chair or living room couch. Email reflections are available in both English and Spanish.
- “Best Lent Ever” from Dynamic Catholic: Each week, participants in this free email program will receive short videos from Matthew Kelly that unpack “the genius of Catholicism” and inspire them to becoming the best version of themselves.
Lent for Families, Teens and Kids
- Family Lenten practices calendar: Author Traci Smith has devised a simple calendar for families, featuring a prayer, almsgiving or fasting activity for each day. The prompts in this printable calendar aren’t overly time-consuming and are easily adaptable for different aged children.
- Catholic Icing’s Lent activities for children: From Lenten calendars and an instructional for making a homemade crown of thorns to a DIY candle Stations of the Cross and almsgiving boxes, there are crafty and creative ideas for helping your kids engage more fully in Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, the Stations of the Cross, Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
- LifeTeen.com’s “102 Things You Should Really Give Up for Lent”: Every year, the Life Teen staff (this 2015 list is from Christina Mead) comes up with a refreshing list of out-of-the-box ideas of things that teens — or anyone — should consider giving up for Lent. Give-this-up idea No. 69 — not going to confession because it’s scary — is only one of the many short but powerful suggestions.
Lent for Social Media and Smartphone Users
- The #ShareJesus project: This Lenten social-media challenge from Life Teen encourages people to stay on Twitter and Facebook for Lent and seize the opportunity to share a short video each day about Jesus by top Catholic presenters.
- “Lentsanity” app: The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (Focus) brings you the Lentsanity app and other social-media resources with reminders not to eat meat on Fridays, illustrated guides for Lenten observances, “Meat Police-approved” recipes and more.
- Catholics Come Home’s “Movie” and “Heavy Burdens” evangomercials: The media apostolate is encouraging Catholics to share these powerful commercials with messages of Christ’s healing mercy and the power of the sacrament of reconciliation with others through social media and over email, in conjunction with the ads airing on national TV this Lent. Inviting fallen-away souls home to the Church is certainly a worthy Lenten activity.
Lent for the Bookworm
- Lent and Easter wisdom from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Timeless words from the works of Archbishop Sheen will inspire the heart and imagination. Each day’s reflection, from Ash Wednesday through the First Week of Easter, is followed by a related Scripture passage and prayer, ending with a suggested Lenten action.
- 40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent by Marcellino D’Ambrosio: This book will transform your Lenten experience for years to come.
- Meditations for Lent by Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet: In these pages, Bishop Bossuet, a 17th-century bishop who is considered to be among the best homilists in the history of the Church, takes readers on a meditative pilgrimage.
Lent on Audio and Video
- My Beloved Son: Meditations for Lent, distributed by Lighthouse Catholic Media, offers Father Barron’s thoughts on spiritual discipline.
- The Augustine Institute’s Lenten-retreat audio CDs: Fortunately, the moving talks given at the Denver-based institute’s 2012 Lenten retreat can be re-experienced through your own ear buds this year. Three distinguished professors give presentations entitled “In the Battle,” “In the Desert” and “At the Cross,” guiding the listener toward a more fruitful experience during the holy season of Lent.
Lent Tips From Pope Francis
- Here’s a great list of 10 ideas for celebrating Lent inspired by Pope Francis, as compiled by Kevin Cotter on the Focus blog. These traditional yet time-tested practices are guaranteed to result in a fruitful Lenten journey.
What will I be doing for Lent this year? Among other great activities on this list, I’ll be sitting down with a cup of cocoa and my calendar any day now to get ready for my favorite Lenten activity, which involves a little bit of prayer and a lot of transformation.
Katie Warner writes from California.
She is the manager of communication and evangelization at Catholics Come Home.