Experience Lent in an intentional way

By Kate Soucheray –

Lent is my favorite season of the liturgical year. I anticipate its coming like waiting for our children, in-laws and grandchildren to arrive for the Christmas holidays. There is such anticipation of renewed relationships, the excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning, traditional cookies and breads to bake and time simply spent sipping a cup of hot tea together. During Lent, Jesus wants this same sort of anticipation from us. The relationship that will be renewed is our relationship with Him. The excitement will be the transformation that occurs on Easter morning. The traditional cookies and breads that we bake together are the ways He will help us reevaluate our lives and allow new yeast to rise in us. And the cup of tea will be sipped as we sit in prayer with Him. Lent is a time of intentionality.

When we arrive at Ash Wednesday each year, ideally, we will have taken the time to evaluate our lives and decide on a path that helps us grow more in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Just as Lent is a time of intentionality, it is also a time of profound listening. We must ask ourselves what Jesus desires from us regarding these aspects of Lent: how will we carve out time to include prayer; will we give something up or will we give to something; and regarding almsgiving, will it include money, time, talent or aspects of all three?

CNS photo/Lisa Johnson

Additionally, how will our Lenten focus affect our family? This year, Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday fall on the same day. What if, as a Catholic couple, you and your spouse dedicate yourselves throughout the season of Lent to the health and strength of your marriage? So instead of giving something up during Lent, you give something to each other and fortify your commitment to each other. You might start with listening more intently to each other.

When we engage and encourage our children to enter fully into the season of Lent with us, we will see the effects spread and the emergence of this very holy season. As our children take the concepts of Lent to school with them, the example they give will encourage their classmates to live with the same attitude and act with more kindness toward others.

As adults, when we drive to work and demonstrate patience on the roadways, it can calm other drivers and remind them to be the same on the roadway. When we act with generosity and charity toward our work associates, it can have a positive impact on the culture of the workplace. And when we complete our work with attention to holy detail, we can demonstrate to others a right attitude toward the work requirement. Just like in a family, these virtues practiced in the workplace create a more comfortable and peaceful environment, so that our work associates are encouraged to add to it by their own actions. In addition, as our work associates take this right attitude to their own homes, they will begin to change the culture and interactions within their own families. In turn, we may experience a renewal across our country and our world. In a sense, the little bit of yeast the Lord gives to us can make the whole batch rise (CF Gal 5:9).

But such a transformation begins with profound listening and intentionality. We cannot simply hope that such a change will emerge on its own. Lent is the time for us to be attentive to what the Lord is calling us to in order to change and improve ourselves, our homes and our work environment. In this way, too, we imitate Mary, who pondered all things in her heart, and bring this into our homes and allow her holiness to transform us. The sacred season of Lent is an invitation to do this.

Action Challenge: During Lent, take a moment to step back and evaluate your life. What can you do to bring about a sense of intentionality through profound listening? How can you carve out more time for prayer? Perhaps by spending less time on Facebook and other forms of media? What can you do to create a sense of holiness in your home during this season of Lent? What can you do as a family to bring a focus on almsgiving, so that you are seeing the needs of others and giving to people intentionally, perhaps through a coat drive or donating shoes and clothing you no longer wear, but are still in good condition? Or donating good food – food that you would eat – to those in need?

 Whatever you decide to do, you can be assured that it will be an important aspect of your Lenten experience, so that when Easter arrives, your heart and soul are prepared for the transformational Resurrection of Jesus.


Katherine Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She holds a master’s degree in theology from The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul, Minn.

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