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Ash Wednesday and Lent Printer friendly format

By Paul J. Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs 

woman praying“Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God…” 

—Pope Benedict XVI

(from his Sunday remarks before praying the Angelus in St. Peter Square on February 21, 2010) 

Ash Wednesday begins another opportunity for each of us to enter into a time of personal renewal and rejuvenation of the soul. There is no need to list the many ways in which our world has become stressful, nor the ways we exhaust ourselves in trying to meet our responsibilities and the expectations others have placed on us. What we sometimes do not know is that inside each of us is a deep well that sometimes runs dry in our everyday attempts to cope and that well is waiting to be refilled and replenished. 

Lent is an opportunity for us to fill our wells with an abundance of water so overflowing that it teems out and replenishes all of the dry wastelands along our journey. We all know how wonderful it is to operate from a reservoir filled with grace. We are kinder to others and ourselves. We respond with patience and compassion, and our ability to move through stressful situations is marked by wisdom and fortitude. Refilling our personal wells takes time and attention. Sometimes it is done in solitude, and other times it requires the presence of others. It is always, however, an experience where the benefits far outweigh the costs. 

Participating in the liturgies of the season allows us to hear the Word of God that is the basic font of all good introspection. Listening to God’s voice causes inner springs to burst forth in the deserts of our lives. We receive nourishment that is healing, revitalizing, and invigorating. We are charged with energy to share what we feel, know, and experience. Through this sharing we not only benefit ourselves, but we move others to understand themselves in ways previously unknown. In essence, light overcomes the darkness. 

Each of us is worth these 40 days and needs them in ways like never before. Setting the time aside to tend to the self is a gift like no other. Listed below are ten ways in which you can make this Lenten season an opportunity for renewal finding fuller meaning in life and all its complexities.

Try your best this Lent to… 

Slow Down—Set aside 10 minutes a day for silent prayer or meditation. It will revitalize your body and your spirit. 

Read a good book—You could choose the life of a saint, a spiritual how-to, an inspirational book, or one of the pope's new books. 

Be kind—Go out of your way to do something nice for someone else every day. 

Get involved—Attend a Lenten lecture or spiritual program. 

Volunteer at your parish—Whether it's the parish fish fry, cleaning the church, or helping with the food drive, it will give you a chance to help others. 

Reach out—Invite an inactive Catholic to come with you to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday. 

Pray—Especially for people you don't like and for people who don't like you. 

Tune out—Turn off the television and spend quality time talking with family members or friends. 

Clean out closets—Donate gently used items to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Donate—Google “Catholic Missions” then pick one mission and decide how you can help by sending money, clothing, or supplies. (2011-2012 Our Sunday VisitorYour Guide To A Catholic Lent)

Let us join in prayer for each other this Lent that we might all be graced with the wisdom that God’s love calls us to the desert, but always and most certainly leads us to streams of overwhelming refreshment for our souls.


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Is the season of Advent an oasis of calm as Christmas approaches?
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