10 Reasons Why I Love Lent

May we clothe our hearts with the light of Christ.

Salvadorans gather for Ash Wednesday Mass at El Calvario parish in San Salvador on Feb. 22.
Salvadorans gather for Ash Wednesday Mass at El Calvario parish in San Salvador on Feb. 22. (photo: Marvin Recinos / AFP via Getty Images)

It may seem strange to say I love a season of repentance, but I look forward to Lent every year with great enthusiasm. It gives me time to reflect on the many rough edges of my soul and ask God to chisel away at them. Here’s why this time of year means so much to me: 

Lent is a purely Christ-centered season, which thankfully hasn’t become tainted by consumerism. You don’t see newspaper ads touting Lenten specials at the mall or after-Lent clearance sales, nor do stores feature Lenten gifts and cards. 

I love the physical quality of Lent, which opens with a cross made of ashes upon our foreheads and the ominous proclamation that we are dust. Fridays include genuflecting and praying, as we walk spiritually with Christ during the Stations of the Cross. On Palm Sunday, we are given something tangible to remind us how Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem. Then we have the washing of feet on Holy Thursday and that stirring moment on Good Friday, when we kneel to venerate the cross. 

Each year, when I decide on my Lenten sacrifices, I realize how blessed I really am. In truth, I’ve never gone to bed hungry, and my pleasures are many, including ice cream, chocolates and wine. Then there are ordinary things many people in the world consider luxuries, such as hot showers, clean drinking water and air conditioning. Lent calls us to remember our less fortunate brothers and sisters and to dig a little deeper in our pockets to help them. 

I love how nature moves in step with the season of Lent. As the days process toward Easter, the trees start flowering and daffodils push their buttery heads through the bleak earth. Nature’s gradual awakening from the starkness of winter echoes our Lenten attempts to reject dark habits and clothe our hearts with the light of Christ. 

Lent gives me a chance to create a do-it-yourself retreat at home. I try to spend time each day in silence, reading morning and afternoon prayers in the Liturgy of the Hours while sitting on the front steps, accompanied by robins gathering in the bird bath. Simple meals remind me of monastery fare and help me remember the poor in our world. 

Each year, I read Lenten classics such as The Pain of Christ and the Sorrow of God by Gerald Vann and The Seven Last Words of Christ by Fulton Sheen. Vann reminds us that, during Lent, we’re asked to “share in a particular way in the Passion of our Lord,” by choosing love over selfishness. This reminder is worthy of being written down and posted on my refrigerator! 

In the past, it was obvious who the Catholics were, because you could walk into their house on Fridays and detect the aroma of fried fish. At many parishes, the Knights of Columbus revive that tradition by serving fish dinners on Fridays during Lent. I love attending these events to see friends and support the Knights, who donate to many good causes in the name of Christ. 

Every Lent I read the Passion story in the four Gospels, poring over a few pages each night. These passages help me understand the meaning of sacrificial love. I am always stunned by the realization that no matter how many times I read these passages, they always reveal something completely new and remarkable, which I deeply need to hear. 

I’d be stretching the truth if I said I love going to confession, but at least during Lent I can dispense with my usual excuses. After all, if I plan to clean the entire house to prepare for Easter, shouldn’t I step into the confessional with the intention of asking God to cleanse my soul and praying he will “create in me a clean heart”?

Finally, I usually do too much during Lent. I’ll vow to stop online shopping, as well as cutting out desserts and wine. I’ll promise the Lord to pray more, attend the Stations of Cross and give generously to the poor. But there’s no question that, at times, I will fail, and fail miserably. Still, there’s comfort in knowing our failures reveal how much we rely on the love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. And at heart, that’s what Lent is really about.