What Are You Doing for Lent? A Suggestion
Ash Wednesday is this week. As we begin the Lenten season, we may be wondering: What am I going to do for Lent this year? I have one idea you might want to consider.
It comes from a good friend, Father Rich Jones, pastor of a church in the Pittsburgh diocese. In his Lenten Reflection, Fr. Rich referred to the book, Blessed by Less—Clearing Your Life of Clutter by Living Lightly by Susan V. Vogt. During a particular Lent, Vogt decided to give away one thing on each of the 40 days of Lent. She found the practice so helpful, she kept doing it for the rest of the year.
Voygt’s basic mantra is less is best. When she says less is best, she is not referring only to physical things (like clothes, knickknacks, furniture) but other things as well: “less over-scheduling, less emotional baggage, less gossiping, less complaining, less fear, less grudges.” So, you might want to try this practice. You can start by asking, “What do I have that I can give away to someone in need, or someone who would appreciate having it?” You could begin in your closet. (That’s where I usually start!) How many sweaters, shoes, coats, jackets do you have that you no longer need or wear? Why not take them to Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul, or another local thrift store.
Then move on to other things. You’ll probably find stuff in your kitchen cupboards. Here in my house, for example, we recently cleaned out a cupboard where we found glass dishes we never use—nice dishes someone else might like to have. We took them to two local thrift stores—one sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the other sponsored by Women Safe. Check for other things to give away like Christmas items, mugs, lamps, linens, books, tools.
Other “things” to give away or even throw away are “things” like these: complaining, angry thoughts, senseless worrying, gossiping, resentment, jealousy, unkind remarks, fears, and rushing around. If you’re about to complain about something, stop and think of one thing you’re grateful for and say a little thank you prayer to God. If you find yourself worrying, pray something like, “I place all my trust in you, God.” If you’re rushing around, stop, take a deep breath, and pray, “Jesus, slow me down!” Then continue at a more sane pace.
Another “thing” you can give away is your time. You could make that phone call you’ve been meaning to make for quite some time. Or stop in and see a lonely neighbor. Or visit someone in an assisted living center or
hospital. If you are living in an assisted living center, then go down the hall to chat with someone you haven’t spoken with for a while. If you’re a nun, you can call or visit a sister in your health care facility or retirement center. Or maybe you’d like to give away some of your time in another way: offer to baby sit for busy parents, volunteer at your parish, make something for a fund-raiser bake sale, read a book to a child, take a dog for a walk, play with a cat, or even spend a few minutes each day praying for someone. You might even want to let the person know which day you prayed for them. I’m sure you can come up with other ways to give away some of your time this Lent!
Lent is a time to do penance, pray, and give alms. It is also a time to become more aware of God’s love for us—as shown especially through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I like how G. K. Chesterton described God’s love for us. He said God loves us furiously. May the passion you put into your Lenten practices touch the hearts and well-being of others. And may it reflect the furious love God has for all of us!
I wish you all a loving Lent!
Our song today is instrumental music and script put out by “Our Sunday Visitor.” The script offers a number of ways we might want to celebrate Lent this year.
Do you have any thoughts on Lent or any suggestions for us?
Good morning, Sr. Melannie. I was especially taken by the “give away your time” suggestion. This is definitely something I’ll be more mindful of this Lent. I’m a teacher on the verge of retirement, and so you can imagine the school clutter that’s collected in the closets, corners, and drawers of my life! This Lent will be a good time to tackle all of that head on! Thank you again for another timely blog, and may your Lent be clutter-free!
For those of us who tend to be compulsive about lists and suggestions, may I suggest that we pick ONE practice — yes, only ONE — and do it well. For me, that’s the best expression of “less is best.” Doris
I started the give away last year……..of course it ended up being a purging over a few days but…………
Another practice I started several years ago was not to buy anything that was unnecessary during lent, i.e. jewelry, shoes, clothes, etc. It’s helped me to continue really discerning what I buy the rest of the year.
love your thoughts! Love the one about throwing away your complaining…stop and think of one thing you are thankful for. I, too, am like Chris…I practice not buying unnecessary items during lent. Happy Lent to you, Sr. Melanie.
Thanks, Sister Melanie. I am constantly trying to declutter in all the ways you suggested. This is a good reminder.
Marietta Wethington, OSU
I did the giveaway a couple of years ago…it is so healthy and a relief, because whatever we own, we need to take care of. Now I look a around and find things that I have and realize now is the time to give it away…somehow before I didn’t think of it! I love the idea of giving up bad habits…complaining, gossiping, swearing…whatever suits your needs. Doing positive things is really great. I have been mentally struggling with Lent and what to do…so many options. If I give up a bad habit, do something meaningful for someone, pray and give things away sometime during the day/week…I think my Lent might be fulfilling! Thanks, Melannie…have a blessed Lent!!
I like all of your decluttering suggestions……whether it be things or bad habits. These activities require more than just discipline to deny yourself something(chocolate? again?). They’ll make me more aware of my careless habits and things that I take for granted. Self reflection and change is what Lent is all about. Thank you. P.S. How about giving up worrying?
All that we have, we have been given by God. To me, that means I have been given stewardship of what I have. If I find that I am not fulfilling my stewardship duties, i.e. properly caring for and consistently needing what I have, that is the criteria for giving that away, whether it is an extra tool in my garden shed, an extra pan in the kitchen or a pair of shoes that my feet do not need.
Dear Sr Melannie,
Love, love, love your ideas! I so look forward to reading you each week!
Have a wonderful Lent.
Love and blessings,
Hi, Melannie! All good ideas for lent. It has been said that what we choose to do during lent can be the beginning of something we continue to do year round. I purge on a regular basis, especially clothes when I buy something new. “Hmm. What don’t I need now that I have this new item?” And I have been truly blessed by the “less is more” concept. May we all have a blessed lent.
I had a discussion about worrying with my adult son yesterday about worry. Today when I read your blog ,the line,” I place all my trust in You God”,resonated with me.it was a reminder that Worry is so useless when we have a loving God who will take us through anything life throws at us. I just had to share this with my son who is facing some health challenges.
Thank you for your multiple ‘giving up’ suggestions, Sr. Melannie. I’ve been getting rid of ‘things,’ but that doesn’t change me as a person. I need to give up worrying and fretting over things … being judgemental … and most of all, complaining. What better time to get started on the path to transformation than at the beginning of the Lenten season? I want this to be my “Best Lent Ever!” Blessings!
Thank you, Sister. A blessed and a loving Lent, to you, too.
“Lent is a time to become more aware of God’s Love.” May God’s Love, God’s “furiously” “Wonder”-“Full” Love for us, come to others, this Lent, through us. May each day of Lent find us being a Joy-filled, Loving Witness to Jesus Christ and His totally self-giving Love that was the fulfillment of His deepest desire – doing the Will of God in His Life….
Hi Melannie, What an awe inspiring thing to be sent to me here only days before Lent. Why worry when there are truly good people around sending me such caring computer help. I must give up worrying at all.
Thank you for getting in contact !!!
As always a worthwhile and challenging meditation. Love the video and music. Have a blessed Lent filled with spiritual growth and service. Love and prayers.
Here I am in the company of women. I have always enjoyed their lack of hesitancy to talk about spiritual things by some women, Thanks, Melanie for “We are transformed? I will try out your useful Lenten thoughts!