Ash Wednesday You are dust and unto dust you shall return.  Someone is under my bed, either coming or going!

After His baptism, Jesus went into the desert for forty days to pray and fast in order to prepare for His ministry. So many times during His lifetime, Jesus went off by Himself to pray, to spend time with His Father. We can learn a great deal from this. 

Lent is our time to come apart from our normal activity to pray and sacrifice in order to grow closer to God in preparation for the celebration of the Triduum and Easter Sunday. Many of us decide to fast from a particular food, such as candy, or desserts. Some of us will try to pray more often, say an extra rosary every day, or attend Mass during the week. One year my Dad gave up cigarettes for lent- it was very hard on him, but even harder on us, his family, as his temper grew short. One friend of mine gave up his morning WaWa coffee, and drank hot chocolate instead. He gained ten pounds.

Lenten sacrifices should be a meaningful gesture of self-denial for the love of God. It is even better when it helps us grow in self-control and in deeper appreciation of the gifts and graces we have in our lives. 

Here are a few suggestions that you might consider as alternatives to our usual Lenten fasts.

Most of us have some attachment to our gadgets and digital media. Lent is the perfect time to fast from them. Spend less time on TV, computer or smart phone. One Radio host has given up tweeting for Lent. If that seems like too hard, try giving it up for the weekend, or an hour each day.

Fast from negative talk or criticism. One year a group of us tried this. It was difficult at first, but since there were several of us, we were able to help each other and made it through Easter. Our work environment became so pleasant and we continued it long after Easter.

Fast from non-essential shopping.  Dont go looking for those special sales, or the latest gadgets. If you must go into a store, bring a list of essentials with you and buy only those thing. Go a step further, and give the money you might save to the poor.

We all love our snacks, as you can clearly see. Often they are harder to give up than a meal. We eat when we are stressed, or tired, or just relaxing. Remember the reason you are doing this and say a prayer for those who may not have eaten at all that day. I have stopped buying snacks that I like so they are not lying around, calling me at night. The money I save goes into the poor box.

I love listening to music and talk radio. Often, the second thing I do after I get up in the morning is to turn on the radio. It is also almost impossible for me to drive without some music in the car. Facing the quiet can be uncomfortable, but we can discover God speaking to us in the silence.

Approach meal planning with a Lenten attitude. Eat simpler meals during Lent. Cut out sweets, or bread, or gravy, or alcohol.  Refrain from foods that seem decadent or celebratory- foods that you associate with holiday meals.

Each of these activities, done in the proper spirit for the love of God, can help us to train our bodies and our spirits to be more attuned to God in our lives every day. This year try something different.


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