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By Father Mark Neal | Mar 1 2020

Do you get excited about Lent? Or is it a time you see as something you have to endure because of what you have to give up. While it’s true that Lent has historically been a time to take something away, I would like to challenge you to shift your perspective this year toward looking at it as a time to give something to yourself and to others as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal mysteries and the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

As Catholics, we are encouraged during Lent, to engage in the traditional practices of Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving (giving to the poor and those in need). While we should, of course, be engaged in these activities all year around, we are called specifically during Lent to focus on them as we also remember the sacrifice made by Jesus on our behalf.

Often times, we sacrifice things like candy, soft drinks, food or even alcohol. You may even already donate the money you would spend on those items to a charitable cause. But what if you could make it a more rewarding time for you and others? What if you could do something that would completely change how you approached Lent? Here are some ideas I’ve seen recently that you may want to try:

  • Give Yourself a Positive Outlook: Do you have an internal dialogue that is hurtful? Is hate-speak permeating into your life? Why not give it up for Lent and give yourself a positive affirmation each day? You can do this on your own or maybe through the gift of weekday mass. (I personally will be trying to offer more hope in my Lenten Homilies for those seeking positivity). With this new found positivity—don’t keep it to yourself! Spread the good cheer to all.


  • Give Yourself a Break: Are you beyond stressed? Lent is a time for quiet and prayerful reflection. Give yourself 10 minutes? 15 minutes? each day to truly meditate in the moment. In this time of peace you have gifted yourself, you may find the time to do good works that in turn help you feel good, not just overwhelmed. (BTW Have you read The Mindful Catholic? It explains how mindfulness can help us become aware of the present moment and accept it. Catholic mindfulness is a way to practically trust God more in our lives. Instead of separating faith from day-to-day life, using mindfulness helps bridge the gap so we can feel the sense of safety and peace God intends us to have.)


  • Give Yourself a World Food Tour: Tired of eating the same old thing? Looking to maybe cut out some bad eating habits? The rest of the world eats very differently than we do here in America. And, often a lot less. Pilua is a delicious, inexpensive meatless family meal from Africa. Black Bean soup from Guatemala is hearty and filling. Shaksouka from Gaza is (as the kids say) “having a moment”. You and your family can eat your way around the globe and with the money you save, give to those who may need a little more to not go hungry at night. Find these recipes and more at Tag your #FamFoodieFaves @htschool on Instagram!


I hope these ideas inspire you to have a more meaningful season this Lent. And that perhaps, they become a regular practice even after Lent has ended. Your good works (and goodness in your soul) should not end after the season ends, but hopefully become new additions to your daily lives. Have a good and prayerful Lent.

— Father Mark