I read the musings on Lent from Father Martin Connor, L.C. (see below) with some interest. When I was working with Catholic Leadership Institute on their “Good Leaders – Good Shepherds” program, we discussed how effective people use “S.M.A.R.T. Goals” or something similar to help ensure success in their endeavors.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Relevant (to the overall goals of the person/organization)
T – Time bound (does it have a completion date attached)
This is very much in keeping with the traditions of classic Catholic spirituality. St. Ignatius wrote the “Spiritual Exercises.” Francis De Sales penned the “Introduction to the Devout Life.” The Benedictines read a portion of the “Rule of Benedict” every day at lunch thus ensuring that they have worked through The Rule within the course of one year.
What Father Connor says is thought provoking, concrete, biblically based and action-oriented. His idea to “purify the negative – maximize the positive” also ties in nicely with the 2013 theme of Malvern Retreat House this year of “changing water into wine.” Want to know what to do for Lent? He provides some ideas below:
In less than one week we will begin the penitential season of Lent. It is the season the Church offers us every year to seek a deeper conversion: purify the negative; maximize the positive—all in the hopes of attaining “the full stature of Christ”. True penance can never go without ascetical practice, including physical. The whole person, body and soul, must actively take part in this religious act by which a creature acknowledges the holiness and majesty of God.
Like last year I would like to propose to you to be the spiritual leaders that you are called to be– in your home and work circles– during this season of conversion.
I invite all of us men and even challenge you to begin this season of Lent well–asking for that grace of desire—for a deeper hope and trust in Almighty God during these very unique times we are living in.
I open my suggestions to you with this quote from a new book from George Weigel Evangelical Catholicism: Deep Reform in the 21st-Century Church.
The Evangelical Catholicism of the future is a Catholicism of radical conversion, deep fidelity, joyful discipleship, and courageous evangelism. Evangelical Catholics put friendship with the Lord Jesus at the center of everything: personal identity, relationships, activity. Evangelical Catholics strive for fidelity despite the wounds of sin, and do so through a daily encounter with the Word of God in the Bible and a regular embrace of Christ through a frequent reception of the sacraments. Evangelical Catholics experience dry seasons and dark nights, like everyone else; but they live through those experiences by finding their meaning in a deeper conformity to the Cross of Christ—on the far side of which is the unmatchable joy of Easter, the experience of which gives the people of the Church the courage to be Catholic…..Evangelical Catholics enter mission territory every day, leading lives of integrity and charity that invite from others the question, “How can you live this way?” That question, in turn, allows the evangelical Catholic to fulfill the Great Commission by offering others the Gospel and the possibility of friendship with Jesus Christ.
May I suggest that you also offer your prayer and sacrifices during this holy season for:
- Your personal conversion: something worth more to God than any of the empty promises and excuses that tend to be on our lips
- Faith-filled leadership in your family and home, be the initiator (not your wife) of more spiritual activity for the family
- Holiness, wisdom and courage for our Church leaders
In a spirit of brotherhood and communion, I challenge all of you to choose two (or more) from each of the three traditional Lenten categories below and stay faithful to it for the whole 6 weeks of Lent. As a way of promoting accountability, I strongly suggest that the team leaders use this as their commitment review in your weekly Encounter with Christ during Lent.
1) No looking at your phones until your morning prayers are over.
2) Begin your day on your knees with prayer and end on your knees with prayer (with your wife and family if possible).
3) One full rosary per week and one decade every day with your family and you as leader of the family pray it on your knees.
4) Read Benedict XVI’s Lenten letter and meditate on it. Send it to a friend. (attached)
5) Never forget any of your prayer times during Lent, and to pray for the grace of desire: the desire for the holiness of life that God wants for you.
6) The faithful praying of the Way of the Cross each Friday of Lent (and if possible with your whole family). At home or at Church.
7) Preparation of the Sunday liturgy by doing a “pre-reading” and reflection of the Sunday mass reading with the whole family.
8) Weekly holy hour in reparation for your personal sins and sins of the world (if you’re already doing one, prayerfully consider another).
“Besides the ordinary effect of fasting in raising the mind, subduing the flesh, confirming goodness, and obtaining a heavenly reward, it is also a great matter to be able to control greediness, and to keep the sensual appetites and the whole body subject to the law of the Spirit; and although we may be able to do but little, the enemy nevertheless stands more in awe of those who he knows can fast.” — St. Francis de Sales
- Allow yourself NO TEXTING when at the table with your family and most definitely when you are alone with your wife after work hours.
- Turn off (TV, phone , computer, music) when you get home from work AND LEAVE IT OFF FOR THE NIGHT at least once a week IF NOT MORE.
- Put your work phone in a closet/drawer when you come home on Friday night and do not look at it until Monday morning.
- NO TV FOR THE WHOLE OF LENT. Such time will be used in trying to do more family related activities if possible.
- Turning off phone and television when with the family at all meal times.
- Scale back the meals outside of the home per week. Commit to more family meals together no matter how hectic the schedule is!
- Fast and abstain on all Fridays of Lent (like they were all Good Friday’s), fasting from one whole meal and consider abstaining from alcohol during lent.
- Fast from the excuses: not going to your weekly Encounter meeting, monthly evening of reflection, not asking for spiritual direction/guidance. Make it happen this Lent!
- Replace your “chill” moments with the offering of yourself to help your wife/family with something at home. Let her choose. (emptying the dish washer, folding laundry, bathing the kids….)
- No unnecessary work on Sunday: Spend it in family (games, prayer, study…). Start to say NO to things that are unacceptable to Sunday rest.
- Real Tithing: Instead of saying “I think I know how much I give to God….”, commit to doing the numbers and find out what the reality is. If it is short of the 10% then increase it by 2%. (As Mother Teresa said, “give until it hurts and then give some more”.) Let God bless your trust in Him (Luke 6, 38).
- Commit to some practical alms giving (Commit to going on mission during Holy Week, go to parish mission and participate, serve at some soup kitchen, etc…)
- Abstain from eating out during Lent and take the $ of all the meals that you would have outside the home and give it to your parish community or to Catholic organization of your choosing.
The Gospel says “The Apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them: Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6, 30). I believe these suggestions will help all of us put these words of scripture into good practice this Lent. Be sure of my prayers and support!
“Fr Martin Connor LC