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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Many perform acts of penance by "giving up" something, such as chocolate, soda or social media. As an alternative, we invite you to take up a practice that you wouldn't otherwise do. It may help you experience Lent in a whole new way this year.
Updated March 2, 2022
If you have gotten in a rut with your Lenten prayer, why not try something new? One of the most common Lenten devotions is the Stations of the Cross. Many parishes offer the stations each Friday of Lent. If unable to be there in person, pray it online. This year, consider lifting up the Ukrainian people using this prayer. Have you tried eucharistic adoration? If not, Lent is a great time to start. Spend an hour with Jesus at a parish near you. In June, we will begin a three-year, nationwide Eucharistic Revival. Other suggestions include: Guided Lenten Studies, Reflections and Apps, Online Retreats or Liturgy of the Hours.
Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are standard. To learn the basics, visit the Fasting and Abstinence Guidelines. Why not go beyond the basics? Find out what many already know: Fasting awakens your awareness of God and pulls you closer to him. You might find fasting for others more fulfilling. Pope Francis asked everyone to fast for peace on Ash Wednesday. What about fasting throughout Lent for the people of the Ukraine? Other ideas include taking part in programs like CRS Rice Bowl, or fasting from something other than food? How about turning off the television or social media?
If you like to read, consider spiritual reading this Lent. Check out Pope Francis' 2022 Lenten Message or his recent encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship." What about "Lent 2022: The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist" from Arkansas Catholic, "Lent, Season of Transformation" from Little Rock Scripture Study or "Lent and Easter with the Church Fathers" from the USCCB Bookstore? Pope Francis is currently asking everyone to share their experience of Catholicism. If you have questions or want to understand why the Church is doing this, read the pope's messages and homilies to help you discern your participation. We also recommend Bishop Anthony B. Taylor's Homily Library or his pastoral letter on the human rights of immigrants, which includes a study guide. Other good options include: other writings from Pope Francis, Bishop Robert Barron's Daily Lenten Reflections, Word on Fire's Lenten reading list and the FORMED Lenten Reflections.
During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on almsgiving, which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. Although the cost of living has shot up, challenge yourself to give more this year. Your sacrifice for those in need is a "work of justice pleasing to God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462) Suggestions include giving to CASA, the schools' Scholarship Appeal, One Church or the special collections during Lent, including Catholic Relief Services, which is currently taking donations to help families in Ukraine get shelter, hot meals and transportation to safe areas.
If not already doing a study in your parish, check out the offering from Little Rock Scripture Study, the internationally recognized Catholic program that began in the Diocese of Little Rock. What about an online or in-person study using these free articles, available in English and Spanish, that offer questions for group study? Or consider "Powerful Pairings in the Bible" a new series from Cackie Upchurch. Looking to explore on your own? Use this helpful Q&A and guide from Arkansas Catholic. Do you like podcasts? If so, check out the "Bible in a Year Podcast," from Father Mike Schmitz. Other options include: "Lectio Divina" ("Divine Reading") or praying the daily readings accompanied by daily video or audio reflections from the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Do you have questions about what the Church teaches and why? Have you been told or read something about a teaching that bothers you? Has this caused you to take a step back? Are you sure what you were told is correct? You owe it to yourself to learn the truth. Ask a priest, or visit trusted resources online. We also recommend reading Bishop Taylor's statements on current events or his homilies that are posted each week. Other options might be a program from Ascension Press, Word on Fire or FORMED for adults. We also have resources for children, teens and young adults. Do you have an adult child who no longer attends Mass? Consider the new "Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church" from Word on Fire.
Parishes across Arkansas are hosting fish fries, soup suppers, missions, Bible studies and more during Lent. After two years of isolation, fellowship might bring a welcome change. Contact a parish near you for details. If you are unable to participate in-person, online options are available. Examples include Virtual Catholic Conference, Cardinal Studios, Plating Grace or Guided Lenten Studies, Reflections or Apps.
If you haven't received the sacrament of reconciliation in a long time, Lent is the ideal time to go. "Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart ..." (Joel 2:12). Many parishes provide additional opportunities to receive this sacrament during Lent through Communal Reconciliation Services. These typically include a short service with prayers, readings and songs, followed by private, individual confessions with priests stationed throughout the church. Contact your parish for details.
I don't know about you, but fast-food fish sandwiches get really old during Lent. Just because you are abstaining from meat on Fridays doesn't mean you meals have to be boring. Sample a recipe from Arkansas Catholic readers who shared their favorite meatless meals, which are divided into main dishes, casseroles, soups and side dishes. Are you hungry yet?
Service is a great way to see Christ in the faces of those in need. There are many ways to help others. Based on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, we came up with 25 ideas to perform these works in Arkansas. These include volunteering at your parish, school or local social service organization, visiting the sick or elderly or adopting a child who needs a forever family. Before volunteering, find out if precautions are in place during this time of pandemic.