Lent is a time for strengthening our faith, a time when Christians put aside all that is unnecessary and become more mindful of their lives as instruments of God.
Pope Benedict XVI said in his Lenten address of 2009, “Through fasting and praying, we allow [Christ] to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”
There’s more to Lent than fasting and praying. We also are called to put God’s love into action. When we help others, we show mercy and generosity, giving people a chance to experience God’s blessings. These acts of love are living expressions of the change we experience through our fasting and prayer. It’s not just about giving up chocolate; it’s about glorifying God by growing in his love.
Our Live Lent With Love Calendar (like an Advent Calendar, but for the 40 days of Lent) will give you an idea each day for how to “put on the mind of Christ,” and live the Gospel.
We invite you to download and print this calendar and join us in living Lent with love!
A Vision of Silence and Tranquility
By Sister Marianne Ferguson
The village of Williamsville, New York is home to Glen Park, where in the winter, the beautiful Glen Falls, creates a wondrous vision of silence and tranquility. The roar of the water ceases and only silence and stillness remain. As one relishes this peaceful atmosphere, one can easily forget that hidden under the quietness of mounds of ice and snow is the moving water, the actual essence of the frigid Glen Falls.
Just as the trickle of water goes unobserved by us, although it is the energizing force of the falls, so can the life force of the Spirit of God that runs through us remain unobserved. During Lent, let us put more effort into gaining awareness of the presence of God within us as we relate to our life giving Spirit. Let us ask God to bring to our consciousness more often, the love of God as we see it reflected in ourselves, the lives of others, creation and all the events that occur each day in our lives.
Letting Go into Our Freedom
By Sister Marcella Nachreiner
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Thoughts hounded. Memories flashed. Things from the past held on too tightly.
Mistakes often linger in my mind and in my heart. Events from yesterday shift into my present day, never allowing me the freedom to fully move forward into the new. Living under the weight of the “should have’s” is a heavy burden to carry. And sometimes the hardest person to forgive is the one staring back at me in the mirror. Labels attach themselves securely to my soul, not to be easily removed. You know the ones—that cling and seem to follow you wherever you go. The ones we try to forget. The ones that raise their ugly heads at unexpected moments, reminders of where we’ve come from.
Though I know the truth, that I’ve been set free in Christ, some labels are written in an ink that seems almost permanent. They’re not easily washed away by a good thought, encouraging word, or a well-intentioned verse. They stick, like super glue, adhering to my personhood.
In traveling the path of conversion — the path of putting on Christ — I am encouraged to let go of everything, to relinquish every form of clinging. I am encouraged to let go of preoccupations with the past, investment in the future and clinging in the present. I am taught that holding is the path to limitation.
This letting go is what allows me to live in the present rather than being occupied with what I hope for. Moving through this world and letting go of the beliefs, the attachments, the fixed sense of myself one day at a time is to travel with a grateful loving heart. To release the old is to allow God to birth the new.
Call to Action
What is hardest for me to let go of? Why? Where do I cling to ideas and expectations that keep me from fully loving those around me? What do I possess that keeps me from being free and loving? Let go of one thing today and experience change.
God, source of all fullness—
Empty my heart of all fears,
Receive my desire to let go of selfishness
In order that I may embrace your loving heart. Amen.
Bend Your Heart and Turn to God
By Sister Alice Gilabert
In 1973 on the feast of St. Patrick, I began my faith journey as a Catholic at the age of 16. This new found faith inspired me in many ways.
I was very conscientious to adhere to my new faith and fasted diligently on Friday’s and other days during Lent. I went to the Stations of the Cross every Friday evening and walked the Way of the Cross with Jesus. I went to confession every month and read some good books, including the Omnibus of Sources, which is a compilation of writings and early sources of the life of St. Francis of Assisi that was given to me by my parish priest, Father Edward Sullivan, OFM. I read the whole Omnibus before I entered the the Sisters of St. Francis! To say the least I knew a lot about St. Francis but I certainly had a lot to learn about living in religious life!
Living as a Sister of St. Francis broadened my horizon on my Catholic faith and brought me in touch with the God of love. You can live Lent as a time of following all the precepts that the Church teaches like fasting and giving alms and getting ashes on your forehead on Ash Wednesday, but what about changing your heart? That is crucial to what it means to live Lent with love.
How do we bend our heart to turn from our ways to God’s ways? First, we need to spend time with our God who is love. That can come in many ways like attending Mass and receiving communion. Perhaps a nice walk down the street or through the park, absorbing the beauty of nature. One can volunteer in a soup kitchen and see the Christ who lives within each poor person living from one meal to the next. Spend time quieting your soul and listen to the God who lives within you. What is God saying to your heart and mind? Act on God’s words if you dare and be at peace with the God who loves all of us unconditionally.
Teaching through Being
Sister Marcella Nachreiner
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18
Our world has skewed the meaning of true love but God’s word remains a steadfast, true source of knowledge on how to love. God is love! If we want the perfect example of love, it is in our creator God. Often, God’s love is referred to as agape love which is the highest form of love that is selfless and sacrificial. It is steadfast, unchanging, and unconditional.
Love never leaves me barren. A life of love begets love in those around me. I am needed as a resource of love for the world. Every time love finds expression in me it makes it possible for others to believe in love as a priority in their lives. I preach the Gospel best, not by words but with my heart. I am the Church most effectively when I love. The wonder of love lies in my growing into all that love demands: a willingness to give of myself, to be open to the needs of the other and even to risk my life if need be.
As I live, so I will die; what I have become in my life, only that can I be in the end; what I sow, only that can I reap.
Call to Action
How do I let God be God in my life? In what do I resist? What healing do I need that I might love?
Be open to the dyings and risings of life this week. Reflect on how you respond to suffering – Is it truly Paschal?
O God of love, Spirit of life
Come and enter my soul
Transform me into your child of life, hope and love
So that I may carry your breath of life and love to your people. Amen
Live Lent with Love
Sister Marian Rose Mansius
Create in me a clean heart O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Psalm 51:12
Our congregation’s 2018 Lenten theme reminds me of one of my favorite songs: “Love Changes Everything” by Andrew Lloyd Weber. The season of Lent is our opportunity to change ourselves and to make changes in our lives, both physical and spiritual.
Since we were children, I am sure we have all been taught to practice some personal penance during the 40 days of Lent; penance that leads us to transform how we live and how we love. Whether we fast and abstain from one of our favorite foods, or resolve to be kinder to someone who is a challenge to live with is not so important as why we do it. Our focus must be on what really matters: love of God and love of others as Jesus teaches us.
Practicing a discipline or curbing our “shadow side” to become spiritually stronger is not easy. Refraining from grumbling or complaining, or self-seeking attitudes is not easy. Love is work, but it is also rewarding when we say a kind word to someone at home, at work, at the supermarket, or anytime the opportunity comes our way.
Positive practices of prayer for a certain person or a special intention keep me focused on what the prophet Isaiah calls “addressing wrongs.” Who is the person who annoys me most and who may I have wronged? Who are the people in our society today who are wronged? Who are the most vulnerable and the voiceless? Is it the “Dreamers?” Is it the truly poor? Is it the men and/or women who are trafficked for sex or slave labor? Is it the elderly and lonely neighbor who would enjoy a visit from me?
Our prayer and practices of love begin with us. They can transform the world, and as the song concludes: “Love will never let you be the same and nothing in the world will ever be the same.”
Compassion and the Need to Touch Hearts
Sister Marcella Nachreiner
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
Compassion is not some future goal. Nor is it a result of great spiritual effort. Opportunities to extend compassion, to open my heart, to touch the heart of myself or another are myriad. These opportunities lie in those moments when I find myself reacting with rejection, hostility and prejudice. In these moments I must ask myself if I really need to travel the pathways of alienation and pain or if it is possible to find within myself the forgiveness and care that allows me to touch the heart of another. Compassion is that most precious quality of my being that allows me to extend warmth, sensitivity, openness and love to the world around me and to myself rather than to be burdened by prejudice, hostility and resistance.
How we touch others and how we live, how we speak and act are contributions to the world. The power of our heart is contagious, the spirit of compassion is contagious. If we wish to have peace, we must be peace; if we wish to have love in this world, we must be love. Our friends, relatives, co-workers, acquaintances will most benefit when we are brother and sister to them. There is no barrier or obstacle that enough loving compassion cannot overcome. Our capacity to exemplify this, simple though it is, is the spiritual strength to change the world.
Call to Action
How have I allowed even the most insignificant person I encounter affect me? Do I show them the same openness I would show Christ or do I ignore their needs?
Look anew at your brother or sister and see beyond their outward appearance and recognize the face of Christ himself.
O Most High, Jesus the Christ
Teach me to cherish in my heart the paschal mystery
That I may learn from you and become you for others.
Ashes and Valentines
By Sister Fran Gangloff
This year, we begin Lent on February 14 with ashes and with valentines.
Ashes for Lent and Valentines for Love.
As we move through the 40 days of Lent and especially the Sundays of Lent, we look toward the Resurrection, of course.
But still, in the life journey of each of the 40 days, we can find ways to live Lent, to live love.
Reflecting upon the themes of the Sundays during Lent, let us call to mind the sacred images of the Holy Land.
The desert wilderness of Qumran lies not far from the River Jordan.
Jesus, in his wilderness, resisted temptations that were not consistent with his purpose of love and life.
The Transfiguration of Jesus took place on a mountaintop, where Jesus miraculously met God, acting as the bridge between heaven and earth.
Jesus shared this glorious experience with the apostles because he loved them and wanted to encourage them strengthen their faith.
The temple in the city of Jerusalem now remains only in the Western Wailing Wall.
Jesus, in an act of tough love, drove out the money changers, asking that the place be kept holy.
The city of Jerusalem honors the gate through which the palm procession took place.
Jesus accepted the kindnesses of others with a gratitude born of love.
The beautiful windows commemorate the Upper Room of the Last Supper.
Jesus shared the Bread of Life around a table with the apostles and in love asked them to do the same in memory of him.
The Garden of Gethsemane still stands with its ancient olive trees.
Jesus wept and prayed for strength for what was to come to Him the following day. With great love, he excused those who slept while he prayed.
The Via Dolorosa marks the path to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Jesus carried that cross with love from others – both physical and spiritual help, along that sorrowful way.
Jesus rose from the dead from that Sepulcher which is now surrounded with lanterns of light.
Jesus lives in love in each place and time of our lives.
May this Lent of Ashes and Valentines bring us to a deeper love of our God for sending Jesus to us and
for sending the Holy Spirit to us in flames of love. Amen.
Lent is All About Love
Sister Rose Therese Di Gregorio
For me, Lent is all about love! It is a joyful time! True love is joyful, grateful and loving.
Yet, true love sometimes causes us pain, sorrow and suffering. We long for something better for our Beloved. We love so deeply that we are willing to sacrifice at a great price!
Let’s reflect on the story of the two lovers who sacrifice their great treasures: her beautiful hair and his golden watch. There are other stories that you will recall about the great sacrifices parents make to save their children, soldiers for their country, etc.
I feel that Lent is all about the Love that Jesus has for all of us!! He spoke out, defended, and stood by the oppressed, the outcasts, and the marginalized, including women. This was not acceptable in the established religious practices of his Jewish religious tradition! He was a radical, an outspoken radical. He, himself became an outcast! He had to go! But he persisted! Instead, he said, “turn the other cheek; forgive the sinner; 70 times 7 times; welcome the stranger; feed the hungry; shelter the homeless; give to the poor; heal the broken hearted!” He was fulfilling the reason for which he came: to show us God’s face, to show us God’s Love!
And he was crucified because he lived the life for which he came, and was willing to die to show us how to live our life in union with God and one another. Because God is Love, and he/she who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him/her!
So, refuse to be morose and sad during Lent! Instead, be joyful, thankful and happy! Willingly sacrifice something during Lent, because of Love!
This year, I’m so happy that Lent began on St. Valentine’s Day, a day to openly express our love. Likewise, Lent is a time to share our love!
Our Father: A Reflection
By Sister Marianne Ferguson
When we see the word OUR, we notice the thought of ownership. In a sense, God belongs to us, and the opposite must be true: we belong to God. God has called us into his own. Our relationship is mutual. We are in a family relationship with God. Yet if we believe the words of the prayer, we know God will love us no matter what we do, something like a parent with a child. However, we are in an adult relationship where we can share our fears, joys, disappointments, frustrations and pain with God. Our Creator has become our closest friend, the one we can turn to anytime, not only when it is convenient for the other person.
Sometimes it is a challenge to remember that the word OUR is plural, meaning that God is in this intimate relationship with everyone. God’s love is inclusive in that everyone is part of God’s family. Sometimes we are challenged to love everyone as God does, especially when they annoy us, get in our way, or do not live up to our standards. Yet if we believe the words of our prayer, we will try to be as inclusive as God our father is toward all of creation. As we say this prayer, let us examine our own consciences to see how we can more closely imitate the family relationships that God has toward his beloved, all of us.
Live Lent With Love:
- When you say the “Our Father,” think about the words more closely.
- In your relationship with God, appreciate your role as “his beloved.”
- Become more fully aware of the relationship others have with God.
- Incorporate into your actions the love that God has for us all.
Day 1: Feb. 14
Donate needed items to a shelter.
Day 2: Feb 15
Send a card or a hand written note to a friend.
Day 3: Feb 16
Let someone go ahead of you while waiting in line.
Day 4: Feb 17
Send an encouraging email to someone today.
Day 5: Feb 19
Participate in a walk/run or give to its cause.
Day 6: Feb 20
Let go of compulsive consumerism and embrace living simply.
Day 7: Feb 21
Leave your neighbor a treat.
Day 8: Feb 22
Share the gift of your smile with someone who looks sad.
Day 9: Feb 23
Donate a purchased item.
Day 10: Feb 24
Call someone who could use some companionship or a kind word.
Day 11: Feb 26
Gather some soda pop cans, recycle them, and donate the return money.
Day 12: Feb 27
Donate a game to Ronald McDonald’s House
Day 13: Feb 28
Donate blood, or sign up to be an organ donor.
Day 14: March 1
Give someone an unsolicited complement.
Day 15: March 2
Write or email a note of appreciation to someone who has positively influenced you.
Day 16: March 3
Cook a meal for someone who would appreciate a home-cooked meal.
Day 17: March 5
Read one of our sosf.org Lenten reflections.
Day 18: March 6
Hug each member of your family and tell them one thing you especially love about them.
Day 19: March 7
Visit someone who is sick.
Day 20: March 8
Grab a garbage bag and clean up your neighborhood.
Day 21: March 9
Volunteer to help with a fundraiser.
Day 22: March 10
Shovel a neighbor’s sidewalk after it snows.
Day 23: March 12
Do a favor for someone without asking anything in return.
Day 24: March 13
Mail a care package and make someone’s day.
Day 25: March 14
Do a chore for someone in your family.
Day 26: March 15
Say a prayer for someone you know who is in need.
Day 27: March 16
Organize a family dinner and say a prayer of thanksgiving together.
Day 28: March 17
Write an appreciation note to a clergy member, Catholic Sister, or parish volunteer/staff member.
Day 29: March 19
Bring coffee or a treat to a coworker.
Day 30: March 20
Start a “Gratitude” journal.
Day 31: March 21
Reflect on a Bible quote and its message.
Day 32: March 22
Post a Bible quote/reflection on social media.
Day 33: March 23
Volunteer at a soup kitchen.
Day 34: March 24
Hold the door for someone.
Day 35: March 26
Donate food items to a food pantry.
Day 36: March 27
Listen quietly and kindly to someone who is talking to you.
Day 37: March 28
Invite a friend or family member to a Lenten church service.
Day 38: March 29
Light a candle at church and pray for peace/social justice.
Day 39: March 30
Put a coin in a vending machine for the next person.
Day 40: March 31
Tell a family member his/her best quality.