Sometimes, it feels like Advent has only just ended before Lent rolls around. This is another time in our liturgical calendar when parishioners begin to look to parish leaders for guidance, inspiration, and compassion to help them navigate. Is your parish ready to meet their needs?
As a parish leader, the thrill of Lent may have lessened for you. You might have a slight “been there, done that” attitude towards prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, already knowing your usual staples — like, give up chocolate and increase daily Mass attendance. And you have a favorite Lenten reflection guide all ready to go. But what about your parishioners? Do they know what’s expected of them? And even more important, do they realize why we as Catholics do what we do during this time of penance and prayer?
Following are our top four ideas for guiding your parishioners in their Lenten journey this year.
FAILURE TO PLAN = PLANNING TO FAIL
Conduct a quick search on Google, and you’ll find an amazing array of articles, resources, information, and more on the topic of Lent. Your job is to sift through all of the noise and point your community in the direction of some real, substantial, authentic content. Ask yourself, what do they need to know? What have you personally sacrificed, taken up, or learned about in the past that really had an impact in your life during Lent? What might be good for the various age groups who make up the parish?
Some popular Catholic organizations have parish-specific material that you can share with your parishioners. This year, LPi offers a new Lenten Reflection Guide for Catholics called “Walk with Jesus,” where a special emphasis is placed on the Stations of the Cross. Consider offering a weekly Scripture study using this resource for parishioners looking to dive more deeply into their faith.
WELCOME THEM HOME THROUGH CONFESSION
During Lent, a special emphasis is placed on Reconciliation — a holy sacrament that can be intimidating to many. Take this time to speak with your parishioners on the many benefits of a “clean slate,” for lack of a better word, such as the graces that God gives to those who come to Him through confession and the deep connection that follows. Many parishes hold diocesan-wide Reconciliation services, with music that speaks to the heart, extra confessors, and plenty of material on examining one’s conscience, how to go to confession, and things you can expect from confession.
“The Light Is On” is an initiative of the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington, where Catholic churches throughout the Washington, D.C. metro area are open for quiet prayer and confession. If your parish is thinking of adopting a similar format, they have a great webinar that explores the tools and strategies that can be used to ensure all people can be included in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
TAKE UP SOMETHING
Participating in Lent means that there will be sacrifices, but that doesn’t mean people need to take away something. Rather than give up a favorite dessert or extra screen time, we need to remind our parishioners of the importance of enhancing a good habit. Remind your faith community of the graces that are received when one attends daily Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and the Stations of the Cross, as well as receives the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They can also spend these 40 days enhancing their prayer life or getting involved with their community through volunteering. There are so many ways we as Catholics can give back to Christ.
REMIND THEM OF THE “WHY” BEHIND LENT
It’s usually common knowledge about the “fast facts” of Lent. You get ashes on Ash Wednesday (and have a ready explanation to those who will, of course, kindly let you know that you have a smudge of dirt “right there”). You avoid meat on Fridays and give something up as sacrifice during the 40 days. But … do you think many of your parishioners know the “why” behind these actions? Provide them with some “fast facts” they can easily digest to become more familiar about Lent.
Is your parish ready to help guide your faith community this Lent? Let us know!