An elderly priest once told me that each Lent, he would give up the same three things: water skiing, skydiving, and watermelon (and he was allergic to watermelon!) He went on to say that giving up favorite foods or joyful activities in his life did not bring him closer to God. Instead of giving up things during Lent, he would spend the season dedicating more time to quiet prayer.
His statement has always stuck with me, and whenever Lent rolls around, I take his advice. Instead of simply giving up chocolate or activities I enjoy, I’ve vowed to deepen my relationship with God during the season of Lent by adding spiritual practices to my life.
Every Lent, I’ve adopted practices that have fed my soul with joy and goodness. Below are just a few of those practices, many of which I continue to this day.
If you’ve been thinking about volunteering somewhere, but haven’t committed, I encourage you to view the Lenten season as an invitation to begin your volunteer journey.
For the past year and a half, I have been volunteering weekly with an organization called iMentor. The program paired me with a student in an NYC public high school and trained me to support her social and academic life. We’ve formed a strong relationship and I’ve loved being a resource for her throughout her time in high school (both in-person and now online).
She recently received several acceptance letters to colleges, and I could not be more proud. Volunteering has allowed me to use my gifts to help my mentee grow, and it has also given me the gift of a new friendship.
Write in a journal
One Lent, I committed to writing in my journal every night. It was a relaxing practice that encouraged me to set aside a peaceful time to talk with God. I would feel gratitude as I wrote about the times I laughed with friends and enjoyed fun activities during the day. I would also ask for God’s guidance as I handled the stress of work or difficult relationships. Whether you use your journal to pray, doodle, or simply write down your thoughts, setting aside time to reflect and express yourself can serve as a calming and therapeutic part of your day. Need more inspiration? Here are a few writing prompts to get you started.
Write letters to your loved ones
I am so grateful for the many friends, family members, and loved ones present in my life. It’s unfortunate that I can’t see them as often as I’d like to (especially during the pandemic). To keep in touch, I’ve enjoyed writing them handwritten letters where I’ve checked in on how they’re doing and expressed my gratitude for their presence in my life. If you’re really ambitious, you can aim to write 40 letters for the 40 days of Lent.
This pandemic has reminded me of how grateful I am for my loved ones, and writing letters “just because” has been a great way to put that gratitude into action. Not to mention, the season of Lent is the perfect time to show extra love and appreciation for all the people in your life who have supported and cared for you.
Pray the Rosary
One year when I was living in NYC, I prayed the Rosary daily during Lent. Instead of spending my commutes on the subway scrolling through social media or listening to music, I used the “Mary” app to listen and pray along to the Rosary. By starting my day connecting to the Mother of God, I found that I was less frustrated when a client at work was upset with me, and I kept a positive attitude even when the subway was delayed. I could keep the realities of my daily life in perspective, knowing that God is in control of my life and has good plans for me.
Instead of giving up something for Lent this year, I encourage you to add something to your daily routine. By adopting a new spiritual practice for 40 days (or longer), I’ve found that Lent does not have to be a season of scarcity; it can be a season of spiritual abundance.
Originally published February 16, 2021.