The season of Lent has fallen upon us once more, offering us time to reflect on the forty days Jesus spent facing temptation in the desert. For many of us, the pandemic has been challenging for our mental and emotional health. While it has complicated recovery, it has given us our own time in the desert, so to speak, and therefore glimpses of Christ’s suffering in our own individual and daily challenges.
With Ash Wednesday officially behind us and Lent underway, what are certain Lenten practices for those in recovery to consider adopting to strengthen our recovery as well as our faith in God?
Instead of focusing on merely giving up chocolate or coffee, I want to suggest instead we consider other merciful and spiritual practices to make Lent more spiritually enriching.
Consider getting up earlier each day to spend the first twenty minutes in silent gratitude, thanking God for the gifts received and offering to Him your day. You might prayerfully review the daily readings as well.
Reading scripture, which in Armenian is referred to as “the breath of God,” is a soul-satisfying habit. You can download apps like Laudate or iMissal, which have a list of the readings used each day for Mass, making it easy to read them every day this Lent.
You can also commit to making the Stations of the Cross each Friday of Lent, either with a group or by yourself. If you have kids, bring them! I started this practice three years ago and have found it very enriching. Furthermore, if you have a family, consider reciting the rosary as a family once a week. If it’s difficult to recite all five decades, then try starting with one.
If you are married, it would be an awesome Lenten idea to spend some special, focused time with your spouse in order to strengthen your vocation of marriage. Start praying together, or make praying together a more frequent occurrence over Lent. You can also combine this with spending more focused time together with each of your children, siblings, parents, or other relatives. Spending intentional time to strengthen our family bonds can be a wonderful Lenten practice.
You can also commit to reciting a simple but powerful prayer throughout the day, such as “Jesus, I love you” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I would also recommend praying for the Pope and all priests and deacons along with the millions of Christians suffering persecution in various Muslim and Communist countries.
Finally, pray for an end to abortion on demand and pray for pregnant women contemplating abortion. And, of course, don’t forget to pray for all those suffering from all forms of addiction and for their loves ones.
Works of Mercy
I think we need to broaden our idea of fasting. Some fast on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. Others fast from sweets or alcohol throughout Lent. Every year we surrender something to recall the sacrifice of Christ.
But we have all given up so much this past year already! Therefore, may I suggest we focus instead on certain works of mercy for Lent? Find a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or crisis pregnancy center, and volunteer at those places. Offer up your time and talents, as opposed to simply your sweets. Try to see Jesus in each person you serve. And serve others with the understanding that, in so doing so, you are serving Jesus.
Lent is a great time to do something extra to strengthen our faith. This year, as we enter into our second Lent under pandemic restrictions, perhaps adding some good spiritual learning through books, audiobooks, podcasts, or films can be an unexpected blessing. There are some great free podcasts and videos out there, including those from Ascension Presents, Pints with Aquinas, Fr. Martin Goring, and others.
As far as books, below are some great ones to consider:
Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux
Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
An Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales
Crossing the Threshold of Hope by St. John Paul II
My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith by Clarence Enzler (a personal favorite)
And if you are more interested in a written biography of a saint, Mark Twain’s historical novel on Saint Joan of Arc will surprise you.
As we focus on the person of Jesus during Lent, I would suggest two options for Lenten films that can enrich your spiritual life.
The first is Last Days in the Desert, an American film about the temptation of Christ directed and written by Rodrigo García and starring Ewan McGregor. The second is the free multi-season story of Jesus Christ called The Chosen, which is available from VidAngel or to stream using another device, such as Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Android TV, or Chromecast.
In closing, it is important to remember that during these forty-days we may suffer hardships, disappointments, perhaps even disaster. But let us remember, as our Lord reminds us “I will not leave you or abandon you” (Joshua 1:5). With Christ at our center, we can no doubt make this Lent spiritually enriching for both our recovery and faith journies.
Aaron Walter is a lifelong Catholic and former porn addict whose ministry, NewMenRising, is dedicated to pornography addiction recovery. He is a coach, mentor, and accountability partner and is passionate about helping husbands kick their addiction and transform their lives and relationships. You can connect with him at calendly.com/