WASHINGTON, DC – How can Catholics and Christians approach Lent this year in a new way?
In interviews with Catholic News Service, two authors provided their insights on how to make sense of Lent in 2022 — especially as this is the third Lent the church will observe during the COVID-pandemic. 19.
Think of Lent as a season of rest, said Paul Jarzembowski, author of the 2022 book “Hope from the Ashes: Insights and Resources for Welcoming Lenten Visitors.”
Many people come back and connect to church during Lent because “there is something that weighs heavy on their hearts,” Jarzembowski said.
“Lent is a time when the church invites people to lay many of these issues at the Lord’s feet and go through Lent alongside Jesus who is also, we see in Lent, also makes this journey,” added Jarzembowski, partner. director for the laity at the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Tsh Oxenreider, writer, podcaster and author of the 2022 devotional “Bitter & Sweet: A Journey Into Easter,” said this third Lent of the pandemic is unique in that many say they are ready to start Lent again.
“It was almost like the first Lent had fallen upon us” at the start of the pandemic and “we were just in survival mode,” Oxenreider said. “Then Second Lent came along and it was like, what we just had Lent. We’ve been in Lent the whole time; it feels like that.
But now, in 2022, many are realizing the value of the rhythms of the liturgical calendar and recognizing the good Lent in our lives, Oxenreider said.
One way to refresh your Lenten practice this year is to link how you observe the traditional three pillars of Lent: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.
“See if there are any creative ways to reconcile what you feel God is calling to you quickly with your prayer and your giving,” she said. In addition to your fast, “is there some kind of donation you can make for local food situations?” … Focus part of your prayer on food insecurity in the world.
“Not only does it tick those boxes with giving and praying, but it actually makes fasting more meaningful,” Oxenreider said.
To approach Lent with a new perspective, try to find moments of silence, suggested Jarzembowski.
“Lent gives us some time to really be quiet. If it is quiet in his personal prayer space; if it’s quiet, get in the car and go to a church or a sacred place; if it’s online. Anywhere someone can find that calm and you know you have the time to do it,” he said.
Jarzembowski compared Lent to baseball’s spring training in that both are training seasons.
“During spring training, you’re training on the fundamentals. You’re trying things you’ve never tried before, so when it comes time for the regular season, what we would call after Easter, you have the time to practice. During Lent, (practice) times to just turn it off” to give you moments of silence, pause and reflection, he added.
But while it’s important to find moments of calm, it’s also important to connect with others.
“Lent is often about this inner journey; it is often about our personal commitment, but sometimes we take personal Lent too far and privatize,” Jarzembowski said.
More people observe Lent than we think, he said. “Maybe someone you didn’t expect, maybe someone who doesn’t go to church often, who might have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches next to you. Maybe they give up chocolate, just like you.
This year, “ask the Lord for the gift of boldness to be a little freer to talk with our friends and family about what we do and ask what they do,” Jarzembowski said.
“There’s something to be said about making it a season that helps us remember that we’re a church, we’re not just individual Christians and walking around the earth and just coincidentally at the same time. “said Oxenreider. “We’re one body, and it’s something we do together for some reason. God made us need each other and so it makes sense that we need each other for the sake of it. Lent.
For Oxenreider, art and music are two ways to foster a shared Lenten experience.
In his book, “Bitter & Sweet,” Oxenreider includes song titles to listen to daily as well as artwork to contemplate each week. Art and music “can be a source of discussion between your family and friends about your Lenten experience and it doesn’t all have to stay in your head,” she said.
Parishes are essential to building community during Lent, and parishes should consider devoting special attention to planning thoughtful Lenten programs.
“Any Lenten program should have a first impression where someone should feel accessible. For example, a stress-busting party might be something we could use,” Jarzembowski suggested.
“It is the language that is accessible. You can present prayers, songs. There could be opportunities for devotions, rosary,” he added. “Helping people understand that this is how we, in our religious tradition, relieve stress.”
“The other ideal Lenten program is one that meets people’s needs. We are too stressed. We are anxious. Do our Lenten programs provide an answer to this? (Are there) opportunities for spiritual direction or mentoring? Is there a place for people to know they can go even for clinical support? says Jarzembowski.
Ultimately, Jarzembowski encourages people to be patient with themselves during Lent. “Do something. You don’t have to do everything.”
While many may start Lent with great enthusiasm, they can lose momentum as early as the third week, Oxenreider said. She suggests sailing slowly and steadily through the season. “To spend Lent, we need a lot of grace on ourselves, grace that God gives us.