I’m going to admit an embarrassing truth: I really don’t want to make any sacrifices for Lent this year. Why should I add suffering to my life when I suffer so much already? Not all I “suffer” is from my divorce, but being divorced does make life a bit more difficult than life in a two parent home. Add a couple scoops of physical health issues that are sometimes debilitating. Then the cherry on top of that sundae – my concussion 2 years ago that resulted post-concussion syndrome (also called “mild traumatic brain injury) and left me with issues that come and go with various intensities. So I haven’t been able to work much. And I haven’t been able to write much. But I’m able to be a pretty good mom most of the time to my sixteen-year old daughter and that right there is a huge blessing!
I’m surrounded by an abundance of blessings – a beautiful and safe home, loving family and friends, a church just five minutes away, beautiful palm trees year round here in Florida. But despite my multitude of blessings, it can feel as though I don’t have the strength to make any effort beyond surviving day to day. Other people have worse physical pain than I have, more serious illnesses, worse lingering symptoms from head injuries. But that doesn’t lessen the suffering I feel, just as none of the suffering in the world lessens the suffering that you endure. Life can be hard. But life can also be beautiful.
Recognizing the Barren Beauty of Lent
Lent is a time barren of beauty. The sanctuary is stripped of plants and flowers at the altar, we abstain from meat on Fridays and “give up” something for 40 days. But I think perhaps with all that is “missing” we might be missing something very important – God’s goodness that is hidden throughout creation. And yes, there can be beauty in the midst of the desert, whether it’s the desert of Lent or the desert of our broken marriage. When we feel parched, hot and tired we have to remember to look for the beauty or we end up walking – or dragging ourselves or crawling! – right by what can be a sip of strength that will quench a bit of our thirst and give us renewed strength for the journey. We miss the little source of consolation that the Lord has hidden – just for me, just for you – in the midst of the barren desert. He feeds our hunger.
When I do manage to notice beauty in the midst of the desert, it causes my heart to rejoice and give thanks to God even more than beauty during a patch of sunny days. You’ve probably experienced that, too.
Retreats to Feed Your Hungry Soul
So for Lent, instead of focusing on what we’re giving up, maybe think about going on a 40 day retreat. What?!? How can I go on retreat for 40 days when I have children to feed, a job, a home for which to care? Have no fear! You can “retreat” in the comfort and quiet (haha! If only!) of your own home!
I’ve been getting emails for some online Lenten meditations and retreat-type daily emails , maybe you have been, too. In case you’re a slow starter like me and haven’t picked one out yet, I’m going to share with you a few that are available for no cost.
For Divorced Catholics
First of all, if you’ve divorced recently or still experience pain from your divorce, then I highly recommend Lisa Duffy’s daily reflections. Lisa Duffy is a divorce recovery expert and offers “encouragement to live this Lent in a positive, transformative way despite the circumstances of your divorce.” These reflections are from her new book, A Road To Healing: Daily Reflections for Divorced Catholics. Lisa Duffy is a sensitive and encouraging writer. She writes with deep spirituality, but easy to understand and feel like we have hope of growing and changing. These are the only reflections written for divorced Catholics. They’re not specifically for Lent, but they will offer enough challenge to make Lent profitable for you.
Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever
The first emails I signed up for was from Dynamic Catholic and called Best Lent Ever because our parish was giving out copies of Matthew Kelly’s book Resisting Happiness. This retreat is via videos featuring the popular speaker (and author) Matthew Kelly. Best Lent Ever is based on the theme of the book, but you don’t need the book to get something good out of the videos. They promise to keep them short and the first couple have been less than five minutes, easy to fit into a busy day. You can even download a study guide! This is a great retreat if you need a little encouragement to get back into a regular prayer routine and battle the resistance that we all feel towards so many things in life.
Pray More Lenten Retreat
If you want something a bit more intense then check out Pray More Novena’s Lenten Retreat. The videos are longer; the first one is seventeen minutes. The benefit of this one is despite the longer videos, you don’t get one a day. Once you register you will get an email that has links to all the videos for the retreat. You won’t have to watch one every day or you can watch the same one a couple times. Pray More Novenas also has a feature for you to download the audio or a study guide for that video. Matthew Leonard is the first video host and he also provides a free e-book 8 Ways to Jumpstart Your Prayer Life from his own website. Pretty nice!
Pausing to Pray: Lenten Meditations for Busy People
Lastly, The Marian’s of the Immaculate Conception offer the text reflections Pausing to Pray. You’ll get a daily email with an inspiring passage with meditation written by one of the Marian priests. This one runs now through Divine Mercy Sunday (the Sunday after Easter). I haven’t subscribed to this one, but I’ve been happy with other resources from the Marian’s. (Oh wait! I did sign up for it – so I could tell you about it! I’m breaking my own rule by having too many Lenten emails coming in. Well, I’ll pick my favorites and unsubscribe from others. Probably. Maybe) Sign up now here Pausing to Pray by the Marian’s of the Immaculate Conception.
There are plenty more free email reflections you can get from all over, but just pick one (or maybe two) and be steady and faithful in reading them, and also in praying with them. Allow yourself to be drawn into prayer more deeply and more intimately with the God who sent his son to suffer and die for you. He longs for you. Give up your time for Lent and give it to God. Let him quench your parched dryness and open yourself to embrace the barren beauty of Lent.
“We don’t understand that we were MADE to pray, we were MADE to be in relationship with God. And just like our human relationships need attention and care so as to grow, so to does our relationship with our Heavenly Father.” Matthew Leonard, Pray More Novena Lenten Retreat 2017
Let me know if you have favorite reflections you’re receiving this Lent. It would be great if you’d leave a comment sharing what you or your family is doing for Lent.