10 Practices to Take Up in Lent 2021

Rather than give up, take up something new

Many perform acts of penance by "giving up" something, such as chocolate, soda or social media. As an alternative, we invite you to take up a practice that you wouldn't otherwise do. It may help you experience Lent in a whole new way this year.

Updated Feb. 12, 2021

1. Try a new prayer or devotion

If you have gotten in a rut with your Lenten prayer, why not try something new? One of the most common Lenten prayers is the Stations of the Cross. This practice goes back centuries but reflecting on the event that made our salvation possible never goes out of style. Most parishes offer the stations each Friday of Lent. To experience this devotion online, check out "Way of the Cross: Meditations and Stations from Arkansas". Other suggestions include eucharistic adoration, Liturgy of the HoursLectio Divina or centering prayer.

2. Fast to draw closer to God

Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the standard. To learn the basics, visit the Fasting and Abstinence Guidelines. Why not go beyond the basics? Find out what many already know: Fasting awakens your awareness of God and pulls you closer to him. You might find fasting for those in need more fulfilling by taking part in programs like CRS Food Fast. What about fasting from something other than food? How about turning off the television or social media?

3. Do some spiritual reading

If you like to read, why not put aside that best seller and read something that will deepen or heal your relationship with God and his people. Check out Pope Francis' 2021 Lenten Message or his recent encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship." We also recommend Bishop Anthony B. Taylor's Homily LibraryArkansas CatholicBishop Robert Barron's Daily Lenten Reflections or the Lenten readings lists from Word on FireNational Catholic Register or the Catholic CompanyOther suggestions include FORMED Lenten Reflections, Bishop Taylor's pastoral letter, "I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Rights of Immigrants" and other writings of Pope Francis.

4. Give alms for those in need

During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on almsgiving, which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. Challenge yourself to give more this year. It might mean passing on that new iPhone or putting off that car purchase, but your sacrifice for those in need is a "work of justice pleasing to God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2462) Suggestions include giving to CASA, the Catholic Schools of Arkansas Scholarship Appeal, the special collections during Lent and CRS Rice Bowl, which helps people in developing countries around the world.

5. Consider virtual Bible Study

Check out the online Bible studies being hosted by Little Rock Scripture Study, the internationally recognized Catholic program that began in the Diocese of Little Rock. Or start an online study on your own with family or friends using these free articles, available in English and Spanish, that offer challenging questions for group study. Consider "Be-Attitudes for Believers" a new series from Cackie Upchurch, or the new Lenten series: Lectio: The Case for Jesus from Augustine Institute. You may also want to explore this helpful Q&A about reading the Bible and guide for reading it in chronological order. Ascension Press also has some great offerings. Do you like podcasts? If so, check out the new, "Bible in a Year Podcast," hosted by Father Mike Schmitz.

6. Learn about Catholic faith

Do you have questions about what the Church teaches and why? Have you been told or read something about a teaching that bothers you? Has this caused you to take a step back? Are you sure what you were told is correct? You owe it to yourself to learn the truth. Ask a priest, or visit trusted resources online. We also recommend reading Bishop Taylor's statements on current events or his homilies that are posted each week. Another option might be a program from Ascension Press or Bishop Robert Barron's Word on Fire Catholic MinistriesDo you have an adult child who no longer attends Mass? Consider the new "Return: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church" from Word on Fire.

7. Be open to different Lenten activities

Normally, parishes would be offering lots of in-person Lenten activities, but many of these events are canceled because of the threat of COVID-19. Contact your parish directly to find out what events are being held. Even online missions, stations and retreats allow you to connect with your parish community. Visit our calendar to find options beyond your parish. Something new to consider is a Catholic conference. Many of these normally held in person have gone virtual and are free to participate live. They usually require a fee to access at a later time. So, events that may have already happened can still be accessed, making national or international events that would normally be out of reach for many of us available. Examples include a Virtual Catholic conferenceCardinal Studios conference or Plating Grace conference. Follow our Facebook page to find other suggestions as they become available.

8. Make a good confession

If you haven't received the sacrament of reconciliation in a long time, Lent is the ideal time to go. "Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart ..." (Joel 2:12). Many parishes provide additional opportunities to receive this sacrament during Lent through Communal Reconciliation Services. These typically include a short service with prayers, readings and songs, followed by private, individual confessions with priests stationed throughout the church. Special arrangements are in place to safeguard against COVID-19. Contact your parish for details.

9. Try a new meatless recipe

I don't know about you, but fast-food fish sandwiches get really old during Lent. Just because you are abstaining from meat on Fridays doesn't mean you meals have to be boring. Sample a recipe from Arkansas Catholic readers who shared their favorite meatless meals, which are divided into main dishes, casseroles, soups and side dishes. Are you hungry yet?

10. Discover Christ in service

Service is a great way to see Christ in the faces of those in need. There are many ways to help others. Based on the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, we came up with 25 ideas to perform these works in Arkansas. These include volunteering at your parish, school or local social service organization, visiting the sick or elderly or adopting a child who needs a forever family. Before volunteering, find out what precautions are in place during this time of pandemic. Some options may not be available now.