Mar 01, 2022 1904 Emily Shaw, Australia

5 Steps to Stick to Your Lenten Resolutions

Looking forward to a transforming experience this Lent? Here are 5 steps to stick to your Lenten resolutions!

“Why are Lenten penances like New Year’s resolutions?” joked a friend as we gathered on New Year’s Eve. In a very Australian way we had celebrated with barbecued meats and salad, and a swim in the pool. Now, as we relaxed after dinner, and kept the mosquitoes at bay, our conversation had turned to more philosophical topics.

The answer to her question was this: “You never share them with others unless you want to get caught out!” Certainly, this was a very specifically Catholic joke, but as the old adage goes there is many a true word spoken in jest.

Lent can be a tricky time for us sinners. Like our New Year’s resolutions, we might start out with the best of intentions with regard to our Lenten observances but we often let things slide, or give up altogether.

But Lent is not over yet, and there is still time to recover our Lenten efforts, no matter how dismal they may have been thus far!

  1. Be Imperfect

Whilst my friend’s joke was humorous, being “caught out” is not something that we need to be afraid of. God does not mark us on our failures, judging them as we do, marking us deficient and asking us to resubmit. God’s mercy is infinite.

The truth is that there are always a few falls on the road to Calvary—do we not meditate on those of Our Lord in the Stations of the Cross? Sure, His were not falls in the same way as ours, but the sentiment is the same.

God is not expecting our Lenten observances to be offered perfectly. He is using these penances to help us grow in holiness, humility and acceptance of His will for us. He knows that we are not perfect, so He is trying to help us become more perfect, more like Him.

  1. Be Accountable

Once we’ve accepted our sinful nature and it’s propensity to imperfection, a useful tool to getting the most out of Lent is to hold ourselves accountable. One of the simplest ways to undertake this is to evaluate our progress at the end of each day through a nightly examen.

A nightly examen is where we put ourselves prayerfully into God’s presence and examine our conscience. We might ask ourselves questions like: Did I keep my Lenten observance today? Did I observe it with a joyful disposition or as an obligation?

Some days the answers to those questions may be less than ideal but that’s where the next step comes in.

  1. Be humble

After we have examined our conscience, and our Lenten efforts, we can ask forgiveness from God for our failures to live up to our expectations and resolve, with God’s help, to try again tomorrow.

The important thing to remember here is this: ‘with God’s help’. We aren’t required to puff through Lent on our own steam. Growing in holiness and obedience to God’s will means actually discerning what He wants for us and allowing Him to help us.

Recognizing and accepting that we need His help is often the hardest concept to get our head around. We like to be in control but, if we are serious about sanctity, we need to accept that we’re not in control and trust in God’s plan for us.

  1. Be discreet

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks specifically about the attitude and approach that we should have to fasting and penance:  “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 16-18)

The hidden sacrifices are those that often cost us the most—and additionally—bear the most spiritual fruit. If only God can see how much it costs you to drink your coffee without sugar, or refrain from adding salt to your meals, or get up 15 minutes earlier in order to spend more time in prayer, then that is a spiritual win.

Complaining or commiserating with others about how hard our Lent has been undoes much of the good that our sacrifices and penances achieve.

  1. Be transformed

In his letter to the Romans, Saint Paul exhorted them, and consequently us, not to conform to this world. His words are the perfect expression of what Lent can be for you, if you approach it resolutely, and endeavor to grow closer to God:

 “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God —what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12: 1-2)


Emily Shaw

Emily Shaw is a former Australasian Catholic Press Association award-winning editor turned blogger for australiancatholicmums.com and is a contributor to Catholic-Link. A wife and mother of seven, she resides on a farm in rural Australia and enjoys the spiritual support of her local catholic community.

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