03 March 2014

A Medley of Media: Gearing Up for Lent

Ash Wednesday is the day after tomorrow, and if you're like us, you probably have a pretty good general idea of what you're doing for Lent this year, but maybe it's not quite all hammered out yet. We are giving up sweets, as usual--we both grew up doing so, and eating desserts just doesn't seem fitting with the penitential nature of the season. Alas, March is always Lent and McDonalds only carries Shamrock Shakes during March... I have a ridiculous sweet tooth in general, so giving up desserts is definitely a sacrifice. Especially sweet, minty milkshakes...

But other than avoiding sweets? There are a bunch of ideas floating around in my head, some grand, some realistic, but I haven't quite made up my mind yet. If you're in the same boat, here are some things that might help:

On the web...
Catholic All Year's Outside the Box ideas for Lent, with beginner, intermediate, and advanced options. Kendra has a lot of great ideas for things to give up or add in that, undertaken in the right spirit, can help you and your family grow closer to God. Be sure to read the comments section, too: there were many good suggestions there as well!

On a smartphone or tablet... 
There are a growing number of Catholic apps specifically geared toward Lenten prayer and meditation. I mentioned the Lenten Magnificat Companion a few days ago, which I really appreciated last year; another I'm considering for this year is Catholic Meditations for Lent, by Valent Ritchie, which has daily meditations from the preaching of St Thomas Aquinas. Some teens and young adults I know have also appreciated Bob Rice's 40 Day Spiritual Workout app as a Lenten practice. And there are a number of free and inexpensive apps offering visual and/or audio aids for meditating on the Stations of the Cross!

In your CD player...
Lent at Ephesus. Following their very popular and successful Advent at Ephesus album, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, have released Lent at Ephesus. The 23-track a cappella album is full of beautifully-sung hymns and chants, and helps to create a more peaceful, prayerful environment in the home. CDs are available on Amazon or directly from the sisters; tracks are also available in iTunes.

Out of good old-fashioned prayer books...
The prayer of St Ephrem the Syrian is unfamiliar to many Roman Rite Catholics, but is commonly recited several times a day throughout Lent by Eastern Rite Catholics and Orthodox, and is a wonderful, and brief, way to refocus. This is one I'll have written out and posted a couple different places around the apartment to remind me to stop and pray throughout the day, and to help me be mindful of the point of Lent.

The Prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian

O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of sloth, faintheartedness, lust of power and idle chatter.
Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed now and ever and forever. Amen.

What are you doing for Lent this year? I'd love to hear about any resources that have helped you prepare for Lent!


  1. I really like that prayer from St. Ephrem. I think I will put it in my car somewhere to keep me focused while driving to work. One of my favorite lenten resources (as well as advent, Christmas, etc.) is the book, A Continual Feast. It has a lot of liturgical and cultural traditions within the Church year.

    1. I've heard of that book, but never gotten a chance to look through it. I'll have to check it out!