1. No Caffeine
Before I moved to the Pacific Northwest I had only had 3 cups of coffee in my entire life. Since moving here I have drastically increased my intake of coffee. Even when I went home for Christmas, I still was weirding out my parents when I told them that I was going out to meet a friend for coffee.
Now coffee can be great. It serves as a nice thing to use for socializing, and it certainly can help a missionary wake up the next morning after a long day on retreat. But in Lent we can offer up that sacrifice and use it to grow. And we can use it to give back to our community as well by taking all that money that you would have spent on coffee, and donating it.
2. Fast – Every day is Ash Wednesday
Now before you all freak out and say I’m crazy for suggesting this, just remember, I’m trying to help you become a saint. St. Catherine of Siena lived off of only the Eucharist for the last few years of her life. She desired to receive nothing but Christ into her. I’m simply suggesting the possibility of keeping yourself from snacking, and limiting yourself to one large meal per day (though if you feel inspired by Catherine, then I certainly won’t stop you).
I really didn’t understand why we should fast for a good number of years, but then I realized how it truly can help with our faith. In fasting we are able to connect more directly with what Christ experienced. Any suffering of hunger can serve as a catalyst for our prayer, to give thanks for Christ’s gift of self to us.
3. No Meat – Every day is Friday
This is one that I have done in the past. After hearing a friend’s experience in it, I chose to give up all meat for Lent, and on Fridays I would eat only bread, and drink only water. This was my senior year of high school, and I wanted to do something that would be a real sacrifice for me. It wasn’t easy; especially when the rest of your family decides they want to have some juicy steaks for dinner, and you have to avoid them. The real graces that came from this were those conversations though. When you go out with friends and have to ask for a what meals don’t have meat, or even among the Catholic community just explaining what it is that you gave up for Lent. If you want to grow in your chance to evangelize to those around you, then I would highly recommend this.
4. Adding Time to Daily Prayer
Lent is often thought of as the time when Catholics will give something up, but it can also be a time to add things to grow in holiness. Something simple that we can do is add time to daily prayer. As a missionary, I have mass daily and a daily holy hour, but I certainly don’t have to limit myself to just that. If your prayer life currently consists of an hour a day, think about adding an extra 30 minutes. On the surface that may sound difficult, but really look at your days, and think about how much time we all spend on social media, or watching shows on Netflix. There is plenty of time in our days that we spend doing useless things, and just think how much stronger our relationships with Christ would be if we spent that time adding to our prayer.
5. Cold Showers
Oof! This one makes me cringe a little. I always start getting worried when the water is becoming lukewarm after awhile in the shower.
Cold showers sound terrible to the vast majority of us, but perhaps that is something that will help us to grow in holiness through sacrifice. As much as they may be unpleasant, a cold shower is sure to wake you up quickly. Instead of taking our time drudging around in the morning to get ready, we can start our morning off with a cold shower to kick start our day, and then take that time that we would still be getting ready to head off to daily mass in the morning, or even just spend some time doing a decade of the rosary before leaving for work or school. So as uncomfortable as cold showers may be, we can certainly use them to grow in our faith.
6. Silence – No Radio
This is what I will be doing for Lent this year. We spend so much time in trying to fill the silence, when we should truly be embracing it. How are we meant to hear God speak to us when we are blasting music in the car, or choose to go to fall asleep with a video or music playing. Trust me, I’m not saying it is bad to be joyful and go crazy with music in the car, or to have some time relaxing with some Netflix, but if we take that time to sit in silence and prayer, then we will develop a far stronger prayer life. When in the car I will choose to have the radio off for Lent. When I am driving alone, this time can be used for prayer, and when I am driving with other people, I will be able to grow in fellowship with them.
Is this a ploy to get more people to come help out with the youth programs? No, but if you aren’t sure where you can offer your time to volunteer, the missionaries certainly wouldn’t be opposed to having you come help out. Seriously though, if you want to do something great for Lent, consider adding time for volunteering. Giving back to the community and those in need is something that we as Christians are all called to do. Not to mention, I have always found myself so much more joyful after serving others, so it is a win win situation.
8. Random Acts of Kindness Each Day
Every day we are presented with many opportunities to perform an act of kindness for those around us. During Lent you may choose to search for those opportunities throughout your day, and act upon them. You can set a goal for how many people you wish to serve throughout the day, and let the Holy Spirit guide you in how to serve them. This is something great for those who struggle to be bold in their faith on a day to day basis. It serves to help build up that confidence to share your faith through how you live your life every day.