Deepening the Lenten experience -- online and off
March 23, 2007

As we proceed through Lent, it is helpful to take stock of what we are doing to mark the season and consider why we are doing it.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that during Lent we, the Church, unite ourselves with the mystery of Jesus in the desert. In thinking about Jesus, alone in the desert for 40 days, praying and fasting, it seems that something beyond "giving up" something is in order to expand our Lenten experience.

The Irish Jesuits, on their prayer website, "Sacred Space," offer daily meditations based on Scripture. Each day has a specific theme and is carefully written to guide the reader through the prayer experience. It is offered in a number of languages and is one my personal favorites because of the simple and straightforward format.

My sister, on the other hand, is partial to Creighton University's "Online Ministries," which offers daily reflections, on-line retreats in several languages, audio retreats, daily prayers, thoughts for those who are grieving and a section devoted to Lent.

The Claretians' comprehensive website, "National Shrine of St Jude," has a service that allows you to sign up to receive daily prayer meditations appropriate to each season (currently, Reflection Resources for Lent). It is an amazing and exciting collection of thoughts from some of the greatest thinkers and writers in the church, from the distant past to the present day --- Henri Nouwen, Joyce Rupp, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Pope John Paul II and Thomas More, to mention only a few.

As I scrolled down the list, the words of Father Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471) seemed particularly significant: "Set aside time for deep personal reflection, give up all light and frivolous matters, and read what inspires the soul to repent" --- a different sort of "giving-up."

His final words were profoundly prophetic for today: "If you abstain from…listening to idle news and gossip you will find sufficient and suitable time for your meditations."

While Thomas a Kempis likely never envisioned 24-hour news and entertainment television, cell phones and PDAs that keep us connected to each other round the clock, he recognized that to really connect with God one needed to make time.

If your Lent 2007 has been rocky and gotten off track or it is just not creating the experience you are looking for, keep searching. There are parish programs offering liturgical experiences, speakers and small faith groups, as well as books that help with prayer and guidance to help make this Lent a meaningful and enriching experience.

Anne Hansen is a parent education consultant and a parishioner at Blessed Junípero Serra Church, Camarillo.