10 ways to let the pandemic shape your Lent

Didn’t we just have Lent? Aren’t we going through it still?

It comes as a shock every year when I look at the calendar and see that it’s almost Ash Wednesday; but this year feels especially unreasonable. The pandemic and all its wretched offspring have made most of 2020 and all of the new year feel so very penitential.

Almost everyone I know has lost someone to COVID. And we’ve lost so many other things that make life pleasant and rich: Eating together, gathering with friends, traveling, visiting family. Many of us can’t even go back to Mass yet. Adoration isn’t safe; confession takes massive planning and coordination. Weddings and other sacraments have been postponed or sadly muted. Even if we haven’t lost anyone we love, we have all lost so much.

So when I think about what we will do for Lent this year, I feel dull and discouraged. What to do? I know intellectually that people throughout history have suffered through much tougher times, but that doesn’t make it easier to muster up any enthusiasm for the coming season of penitence.

The only sensible plan I can think of is to accept that the pandemic is going to make things different this year, and to lean into that. To try to accept our situation as a gift from God, and to use the pandemic as a framework for Lent.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

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6 thoughts on “10 ways to let the pandemic shape your Lent”

  1. I have a three month old baby girl who seems to have started the four month sleep regression early. So, as you’ve said, I decided that this Lent, I didn’t need to add any extra sacrifices; I just need to offer up and stop complaining about the sacrifices that are already being required of me. The extra stories, the near constant physical touch the 2 year old wants, the nighttime wakings, the attention all the kids need — if I can offer that up, it will be a good Lent.

    I’m also reading This Present Paradise by Claire Dwyer along with the Abiding Together podcast about St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, who wrote a retreat for her sister, a mother of young children at the time.

    1. In my parish, it’s in a small, enclosed space without ventilation, and not everyone masks reliably. It’s not safe.

      1. I’m really sorry to hear that people in your parish don’t consistently mask. Very disappointing. Most people in my parish are pretty good about it (and thankfully, there are mask mandates in my region). But I still have not been to adoration because of other reasons you mentioned: small enclosed space, poor ventilation. Thankfully Confession has been safe in every parish I’ve gone too.

  2. This is so true! We don’t need to make things extra hard for this Lent, because they are already extra hard during the pandemic. Just offer it up, remember poor people, sick people and lonely people, be grateful for your blessings and add more prayer to your life… And yes, it does seem like last Lent never ended!

  3. These are all really great suggestions (#10 is my favorite). When my husband, my son and I were discussing what to do for Lent, we all agreed that we weren’t going to give up something enjoyable, because we’re already giving up so many enjoyable things do to the pandemic. So instead we’re focusing on giving up bad habits/things that put a wedge between us and God, combined with doing something to help others.

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