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?