It's hard to believe, but Lent is just a couple of weeks away. Returning to the Lord means moving away from many things that distract us. But how to do it? Here are three ideas Catholics have been practicing for centuries. This type of simplicity is nothing new.
It may seem obvious, but getting ashes on Ash Wednesday, going to Mass at least on Sundays, celebrating the sacrament of penance sometime during Lent and participating in parish programs really focus us on our faith. Taking time for family prayer, even just before dinner, makes a difference.
Then there’s personal prayer. Might it be possible to put this prayer into your busy day, say at a stoplight, before work, at bedtime or at waking? “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (It’s based on the prayer of the sinner in Luke 18:13). You can repeat this prayer as you inhale and exhale a few times, or for a minute, five minutes, even longer!
Those of us without age or health restrictions give up meat on Fridays (abstinence), and we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. That’s a minimum. We can eat less meat through all of Lent as a way to focus on the hunger of the world. Abstinence is always a way for us to turn our hearts toward God. Try the simple meatless recipe below, if you wish.
Christians—indeed all people of goodwill—perform acts of charity. Can you contribute to your parish’s food bank? Volunteer to help your local St. Vincent de Paul, Knights of Columbus, soup kitchen or any other outreach to the poor or to the elderly? Getting in touch with the physical poverty of others helps us remember to simplify our own act.
Recipe: Lentil Soup
Here’s a delicious, meatless recipe that you can make on the stovetop. (Serves 2-4)
Ingredients 1 med. onion, diced
1 8-oz can of tomato sauce
1 med. carrot, sliced
1 cup dry lentils
1/4 cup celery, sliced
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 tsp. thyme 2 tbsp. margarine
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 cup diced tomatoes (dice your own, if you wish)
Salt to taste
1 or 2 bay leaves
In a 2-quart pot, sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in the margarine. Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover, then simmer (medium to low heat) for 45 minutes on stovetop. It’s not essential, but stir occasionally if possible. Remove the bay leaves, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, serve with buttered bread.
For variety, you can add a pinch of ginger, cumin, even curry, chopped sweet or white potatoes, or turnips to this soup. If you’re brave, experiment a little!