Are you ready for Lent?

Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient tradition of penance and fasting. The ashes remind us of our mortality—that every minute of every day matters. So make this day count as you and your loved one offer this fast for one another and in gratitude for the God who brought you together and enabled your salvation. Plan to spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Renew your commitment to one another by committing to a meaningful Lent. Participate in the celebration of Mass together and receive your ashes, mindful of God’s presence in your relationship, through trials and joys.

Plan to pray the Living Stations of the Cross. This moving re-enactment of our Lord’s journey up Calvary is in its 36th year. Join Father Kent Walker and nearly 40 members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in St. Cloud and St. John Vianney Parish in Orlando as they help you enter more deeply into this season of penance, prayer and fasting. Director Doris Hunt says, “We try to make it very up-to-date with the world today while following Scripture.” The production comes with professional lighting, costumes and sets brought to parishes within the diocese (see sidebar for schedule). Known as the “Singing Priest,” Father Walker, who has released seven albums, has been a part of The Living Stations for 20 years. “Every station is brought to life. There’s contemporary Christian music in between that is connected to what you just saw,” he said adding that being a part of it makes his Lent more meaningful.

Take time to learn more about Living the Eucharist and get involved in this initiative at your parish. This parish-based program encourages communities to share about their journey in the Catholic faith and is designed to revitalize missionary discipleship. Visit: http://www.livingtheeucharist.org/

There are also numerous Catholic websites to help you stay on track. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops also offers a daily calendar with a reading, reflection, prayer and suggested action (www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/index.cfm).

Step up your game and volunteer in your parish Lenten outreach project or at a local food pantry or soup kitchen. As a family, prepare hygiene baggies filled with a toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo and soap and give them to a local homeless shelter for distribution. Catholic Charities of Central Florida always welcomes donations and volunteers to help those in need. Visit http://cflcc.org/ and click on ‘How to help’ to learn about the many ways you make a difference this Lent.

Provide a visual progress of your penitential effort. The Vatican suggests “sacrifice beans” for children.  Lima beans are put in a jar to help keep track of sacrifices offered, then a penitential bean dish is made on Good Friday. Or try a grapevine wreath in a visible place symbolizing Jesus’ crown of thorns. Fill it with toothpicks recalling the thorns or sacrifices promised. Have family members remove one toothpick for each successful day of sticking to their particular fast.

Participation in the Sacrament of Penance is an important part of the Lenten observance. If your parish is on myParish app, you can access a sample examination of conscience as well as your parish schedule for confessions.  The USCCB also provides examinations of conscience for both children and adults at usccb.org.

You can also connect to your faith with local and national programming on Faith Fit Radio. This diocesan internet radio ministry provides a variety of shows that encourage people to live their mission as disciples of Jesus. Listen at: www.orlandodiocese.org/faith-fit-radio.

So let this be a life-changing Lent. Follow the Lord into the wilderness and come out renewed by his loving sacrifice and life-saving Resurrection!

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – February 7, 2018