10 Simple Suggestions for a Successful Lent

Spiritual practices will aid your Lenten journey for a fruitful 40 days.

How can you grow deeper in faith this Lent? These suggestions can guide your efforts.
How can you grow deeper in faith this Lent? These suggestions can guide your efforts. (photo: Unsplash)

Want a fruitful 40 days?

Naturally, Mass and regular confession are a must. 

But there are other spiritual practices that will aid your Lenten journey, too.

Read the Bible. “God’s love letter will make you feel like you could not only run but win the Boston Marathon,” writes Teresa Tomeo in her book Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic. “In the Bible, we learn about God’s family, what breaks his heart, what makes him happy, and how we can stay in relationship with him. ... Once you start reading Scripture, you won’t be able to stop.” Tip: Begin with the New Testament and events leading to and including Holy Week and the Passion. “A great place to begin diving into Scripture is with the daily readings for the Mass,” adds Tomeo, longtime EWTN host whose - daily radio show, Catholic Connection, is co-produced by EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network. 

Attend Mass Daily (or Frequently). Go to Mass at least an extra day of the week besides Sundays, Tomeo suggests. Friday would be a good day, considering Jesus’ journey to Good Friday. Also offer up Masses for people in need as well as for deceased or sick loved ones. You can also enroll your family and deceased friends and loved ones in perpetual Masses offered by religious orders.

“If you can’t go to daily Mass, livestream it on EWTN,” Father Edward Looney, author and pastor of two parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, told the Register. He also recommended spending more time post-Mass in prayer during Lent: “Stay in church for a few minutes after Mass and pray. Do a meditation after Holy Communion. Do a prayer of thanksgiving.”

Go to Eucharistic Adoration. Father Looney also recommends spending time before the Blessed Sacrament in the presence of the Lord. If you cannot go to Eucharistic adoration at your church or a church nearby, “then go to the sites online, the places where you can participate in Eucharistic adoration online,” said Father Looney, including EWTN.

“We have the use of technology at our hands,” he said. If you can’t go to a parish church, pray the Stations of the Cross online, too. “I love to go to The Grotto in Lourdes that way. We can use technology to deepen our faith and have faith-filled moments.”

Complete a Work of Mercy. Select a specific spiritual and/or corporal work of mercy. “What pain or suffering are you able to offer for the salvation of souls today? Don’t let your suffering go to waste,” counsels Father Looney. He suggests different ways to bring both into practice starting in Lent in his book A Lenten Journey With Mother Mary. “Do you know someone who is dying? Go and visit that person. Make a meal for the person’s family. Bring words of comfort. Do you know someone who has experienced loss? Send to that person a text message or a card to let him know you are thinking of him. How might you bring relief to someone who is sick? Through words or a kind gesture? Cooking a meal? Running an errand? You can provide the relief someone needs.”

Pray the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. Turn off the music or podcast on your car radio and instead pray the Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet, or talk to God on your commute, advises Tomeo. If possible, also pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet during the daily three o’clock hour. When you pray the chaplet, pray it for some soul in need at that time, as St. Faustina did.

“Our Lady requested to pray in a certain way,” Father Looney said, first listing the daily Rosary. He noted at her apparition in Kibeho she also requested the Seven Sorrows Rosary. We can pray it in Lent as we “consider how Mary mourns over our sins and wants us to experience joy and the fullness of life detached from sin,” he writes in his book. Another suggestion: “Pray a Rosary for a couple you know who is going through a difficult time in their marriage, or pray a Rosary in thanksgiving for the blessings of your married life.”

Put Together a List of Those to Pray for. Father Looney also suggests intercessory prayer. “Each day, say a prayer for them,” he writes in his Lenten book. “Is there one in particular whom you think of right away? Adopt that person in prayer this Lenten season. As you make an act of self-denial, pray: ‘Oh Jesus, I do this act out of love for you and for the conversion of N[ame]’­­­s soul.’”

He recommends prayers for the local bishop, asking “God to inspire him, in the way he governs, teaches, preaches and sanctifies,” along with prayers for your pastor and priests who have blessed your life and heard your confessions.

Also pray for those you encounter throughout your day.

In a recent email, Tomeo added that people should frequently raise their hearts to God amid daily tasks. 

Make a Mini-Pilgrimage. Father Looney recommends traveling to a new church to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. 

Delve Into Spiritual Reading. In addition to Scripture, pick up some spiritual writing, notes Tomeo. Read Church teachings about the sacraments. Begin with the Eucharist to “really help you meet Jesus at an up-close personal level.” She points out great writings on the Eucharist from pope saints, singling out St. John Paul II. Other possibilities include spiritual classics or the lives of the saints.

Make Simple Sacrifices. Even children can make a spiritually profitable Lenten season. James and Kendra Tierney (CatholicAllYear.com) have found many ways to do that with their 10 children as the family observes Lent. She shares some ways in her book The Catholic All Year Compendium: Liturgical Living for Real Life. Especially geared to the young, the family tracks the children’s good deeds and small sacrifices with their “Lenten Sacrifice Beans.” Kendra places a tin of dry kidney beans next to an empty jar. “Each time one of the kids does some small thing in a perfect way, like coming quickly when Mom calls … he gets to put a bean in.” Same goes for small sacrifices, like wiping up spills, or being generous. The practice does not stop after Lent. “We keep up our good deeds and sacrifices during the Easter season,” Tierney explains. But instead of putting a sacrifice bean in, children get to take out their replacements: a jellybean. “The kids have to do another good deed to get a jellybean out during Eastertide.”

Clipart images of a cross, a desert and similar pictures appear on each day of the family’s Lenten calendar as reminders that “we’re really, really, actually not going to have sweets or watch TV or play video games until Easter,” Tierney writes.

She points out another family sacrifice: “During Lent we try to live simply and eat simply,” using the food in the pantry or freezer that are not family “favorites.” She makes soups often and tries “to go through all the meat bones and vegetable scraps I’ve been saving in the freezer by making homemade broth.” 

Pray the Stations of the Cross. The Tierney family practices “Soup and Stations.” This practice came about because the Stations prayed locally in church did not start until the youngest children’s bedtime. “We realized that there was no reason we couldn’t do the Stations of the Cross at our own home, at a time that works for us,” Kendra explains. “Then we realized that many of our friends were in the same boat, so we started inviting them to join us. Now, each Friday of Lent, we host Soup and Stations at our house. We enjoy a simple meat-free soup and some bread and have water to drink.” She provides the soup for some Fridays and usually friends do so other weeks.

To involve the family fully, the oldest son made their stations from a kit, and they are placed on trees in the backyard. If weather does not cooperate, the stations come inside to a room with no carpet (because of the candles used). “We choose one person to move from one station to the next with a candle, to illuminate that station, and everyone else stays put,” describes Tierney. 

Someone reads the meditation from “a kid-friendly (but still orthodox) booklet called Stations of the Cross for Children.” One candle gets blown out at each station, and everyone sings the first verse of the Stabat Mater, alternating Latin and English. At the last station, Kendra relates, “we blow out the last candle and stand in the darkness for a moment. It is a very powerful and wonderful experience for kids and grown-ups alike.”

Wishing you a blessed Lent!