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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.
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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
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 Hours, Lectio Divina or centering prayer.
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?
If you like to read, why not put aside that best seller and read something that will deepen your relationship with God and his Church. Check out Pope Francis' 2020 Lenten Message, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor's Homily Library or Arkansas Catholic. Other suggestions include Bishop Taylor's pastoral letter, "I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Rights of Immigrants," the writings of Pope Francis, Bishop Robert Barron's Daily Lenten Reflections or select from the readings lists from National Catholic Register and the Catholic Company.
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.
Join a study at your parish or start a new one to reflect on a Lenten series. This internationally recognized program also offers free articles, available in English and Spanish, that offers challenging questions for group study, or check out a new series, "Embracing the Kingdom of God," by Cackie Upchurch, general editor of the Little Rock Catholic Study Bible. You may also want to consider this helpful Q&A about reading the Bible and guide for reading it in chronological order.
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. Take part in a faith formation program at a parish or the diocese. Or visit trusted resources online. We also recommend reading Bishop Taylor's statements on current events or read his homilies that are posted each week.
Check out what your local parish has to offer during Lent. It's likely you'll find a parish mission, retreat, fish fry, holy hour or soup supper to get involved with. If you haven't taken part in the past, we invite you to see how experiencing Lent in community can broaden your perspective, enrich your faith and form new and lasting relationships with fellow believers.
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.
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?
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.