Reflection on the First Week of Lent


Ash Wednesday was just over a week ago and I still haven’t settled into my Lenten routine. I read the two devotionals I have at some point during the day, every day, but I haven’t found the perfect time and space for prayerful reading. I want it; I just can’t seem to settle into it. By the time I do, Lent will be over and I’ll have a case of regrets and guilty feelings.

I didn’t give up anything either. I couldn’t come up with anything that felt right. Nothing felt … well, actually everything I considered felt performative and had no deep meaning. What I’ve been doing so far this last week, is thinking more deeply about what I’m choosing to do with my time and choosing to eat and choosing to spend money on. I’m trying to make that part of my contemplations, but I feel as though I’m falling short.

My March is full of study and action and days of reflection and retreat, but even that is missing an emotional component. At least, that’s how it feels to me. Sleep walking through the steps but not genuinely getting anywhere. I even just added another retreat evening to my schedule, but it’s facilitated by two of my favorite religious women and that alone is worth the time spent.

Writing classes are going well – the first class of each are both great groups. I’m very excited for these six weeks. (Surreptitiously waves at any of them reading this right now.)

I have calendars and checklists and fancy colored markers but none of it is giving me any of the impressions they’re supposed to do.

Although Wednesday’s soup delivery is a good time to sit in quiet and peace, smell the soup, taste the bread, and pray on what got that soup to my door. Maybe I can draw a soup prayer. Draw a soup prayer. That’s something different, I think.

Goal for the week to include on my Apostolic Action – look back at my Heart and Soul Quest Letter to myself from November and the green sheet/handout that Sister gave us and use that to try to get into the Lenten frame of mind and after that I can check back next week. It’ll be a date: Tuesday. That comes after grouping on Monday and after planning this week’s lessons and right before I arrange April’s calendar for this site.


*Be back Tuesday

A Lenten Labyrinth


Lent is right around the cor – hmm…I guess it’s here.

I’m not ready. My prayer life is struggling, and the idea that I need to make a forty day plan for myself is giving me hives. It’s daunting. Between new bouts of covid isolation keeping me from in person masses and spiritual gatherings and my continuing struggles to come to terms with the sudden death of my priest this past fall, I have been having difficulties in focusing on my prayer life. I read constantly. I finally resumed listening to podcasts this morning while I was setting up my medication. My daughter has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow so my plans for 9am Mass to receive my ashes will need to be adjusted. I made three phone calls yesterday and mailed a letter. I’m not sure what this has to do with Lent or prayer or anything other than keeping the chronic depression at bay.

I’m still at ‘what do I give up‘ part of the process and I just don’t know. With mask mandates ending and war in Ukraine, the giving up decision of my Lent feels superficial and not at all relevant.

Should I stop drinking soda? Watching TV? Starbucks? Giving up the internet for a couple of hours a day? (Heaven forfend!) Cheese? Chocolate? Cigarettes? Alright, that one would be cheating; I don’t smoke. Can I give up being judgmental for forty days? I’m not sure I can manage forty minutes.

What is a worthy of sacrifice that doesn’t strike me as trite or worn out?

However, there are some things that I have worked out: a weekly Scripture series through March, a weekend retreat, reading, and art journaling with the use of a Lenten Labyrinth (pictured below).

Beginning tomorrow, I will read Learning to Pray by Father James Martin, and Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly and a daily devotional: Daily Reflections for Lent: Not by Bread Alone 2022 by Amy Ekah and Thomas Stegman. I’m sure there will be more reading as the days go by, but these three are on my goals list.

I will pray the rosary at least weekly.

I will make one pilgrimage, although I’m not sure to where yet.

I will work diligently on my Labyrinth Prayer Book.

I will attend Sunday Mass on Facebook and commit to attending one daily mass in person during the week.

I will keep up with my labyrinth in the art journal. It is similar to the spiral journals I shared a few years ago after my trip to Wales. I plan on looking at it daily and trying to draw or write something relevant. I have enough copies for a new labyrinth each week.

I also have included a downloadable clean copy on my home page for anyone interested in journaling through Lent. (Sorry about some of the crooked lines.)


I think the most important thing I can impart to readers and to myself is to be easy on ourselves. Focus on the three Lenten principles: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.

Time to Reflect


Ash Wednesday has arrived. It feels so early this year, but I suppose everything feels a bit jumbled during this pandemic year. As my priest said at mass this morning, things are different, but they’re also the same. Less people allowed at mass. Ashes distributed with a cotton swab (my parish) or sprinkled over your head (others). I didn’t make this morning’s mass in person although I planned to, and registered to attend. The ice on my car made different plans. I was able to watch the mass livestreamed and stopped by the church later in the afternoon to pick up a small vial of ashes. It was a do it yourself for me today.

I would have thought a year into the pandemic that I’d be an expert on reflections on any subject that came to mind, but when I went to write this on Tuesday, there was nothing. Sometimes reflections feel like journal entries, and I’ve been not great at journaling this past year. I’ve tried to keep checklists – masses attended, rosaries said, writing accomplished, but even that little bit has been a failing.

I hadn’t even decided what I’d be giving up, and then I gave myself an extension. Not anything canonical, but I think sometimes when we force ourselves to do things without the impetus of why we’re doing them, they lose something in the translation.

I spend a lot of time worrying about what I’m going to give up as if forty days without chocolate or soda is a hardship in the big picture of things, but on the other hand, I think that sacrifice should also be a sacrifice of time. What can I do to grow in my relationship with G-d? What are things that I can do for these forty days that will stay with me for the next forty? And then the next?

To begin for the readers waiting with bated breath, I’m not going to make my decision on what I”ll be offering to G-d for Lent until the first Sunday of Lent although I have a good idea what it will be and it wasn’t even on my original brainstorm list. By Sunday, I will have had some time to discern what I can accomplish from giving something up or trading it for something that is more positive and/or spiritual.

Lent is a forty day period where prayer, fasting, and almsgiving take the center of spiritual life. Despite being given dispensation from holy days and Sunday masses during the pandemic, I have still gone almost every week to the livestream mass. I was happily surprised to find it just as rewarding as going in person. In the summer, I began to attend Monday’s daily mass in person and I will continue to do that. Our church has done a great job of keeping things safe. I am very lucky with both my church and my children’s school.

In addition to the three pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving since I’ve become a Cursillista, I try to incorporate the tripod of piety, study, and action into my everyday life, but moreso during Lent when our time is spent in communion with Jesus, and of course, ourselves.

I have some tools and links that I’d like to share with you to assist with your own Lenten journey. The first three I will be doing throughout Lent.

Daily Reflections for Lent: Not By Bread Alone 2021 by Mary DeTurris Poust

A Stranger and You Welcomed Me from Clear Faith Publishing

Along the Way: A Jesuit Prayer Pod – a weekly Lenten podcast from two Jesuit brothers

The Examen with Father James Martin, SJ – daily podcast with Fr. Jim Martin, SJ

Prayer of Spiritual Communion (this is what my parish uses for communion during their livestream masses for those of us participating at home):

I wish, my Lord, to receive you with the purity, humility, and devotion with which your most holy Mother received you, with the spirit and fervor of the saints. Amen

In addition to some of these, I am also going to praying the Rosary on Mondays and the Stations of the Cross on Fridays as well as committing to submit a reflection to my Cursillo group’s weekly digest. I will also (finally) begin reading A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by Timothy Egan. This was recommended a couple of years ago and I bought it then, but haven’t found the right time to start it. I’ve decided to make that time now.

I also intend to recommit to my writing, both spiritual and secular. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve kept consistent with this website, but my other writings have fallen on the wayside. I hope to rectify that over the next forty days.

I hope to bring you more in the coming days. Have a meaningful Lent.

The Forty Day Journey Begins. Ash Wednesday.


​Giving up something is hard to choose, and giving up something for Lent can be a daunting task. Sometimes what I choose feels arbitrary and superficial. Some are good ideas, but not meaningful enough. Will giving it up bring me closer to G-d? Or just make me miserable for forty days? My feeling on giving something up is that it should be sacrificial – you should definitely notice that it’s absent. I won’t be giving up brussel sprouts or beets. I don’t eat them anyway. That would lack sincerity and significance. However, it should also not be something that is impossible to give up like driving or any number of things that you find indispensible.

I asked for help from my friends on Facebook, and I received some very good suggestions. In spite of their excellent responses, some of those very valid suggestions don’t (or won’t) work for me:

  • TV? Then I’d miss family time. We watch most things all together and enjoy that time. I’d be abandoning them for forty days.
  • Cable news? I don’t watch it 24/7 anymore, but I do need to keep informed, especially in this era of misinformation.
  • Internet? Besides keeping in touch with my family, it is essentially my livelihood.
  • Chocolate? Soda? Bread? Been there, done that. I’m not sure it holds the same meaning as the first time; at least not yet.
  • Caffeine? And go through withdrawal? Too physically taxing.
  • Ice cream? Maybe. My doctor would certainly like that.
  • Bacon? Hmm. Possible. Very possible.

I do always add a spiritual component to my forty days in the desert:

  • Prayer time.
  • Reflection.
  • Rosary.
  • Reading.

I already read two devotional books throughout the year on a daily basis: Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2019 by The Irish Jesuits and A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His journals. I’ll be adding two more: My parish gives out a small book, Not by Bread Alone 2019: Daily Reflections for Lent by Mary DeTurris Poust. This takes about five minutes to read each day and provides a reflection and a suggested meditation to reflect on. We’ve used this book for a number of years and it really is a good way to meet G-d everyday. The second book is Lenten Gospel Reflections by Bishop Robert Barron, which was given to my by the person who will be sponsoring me on my Cursillo journey (more on that in a later post). This one looks to be short readings also and it has space for notes or journaling.

Daily Lenten Reading, 2019. (c)2019

i’ve also decided to set aside $1 every time my family eats out or buys a non-grocery food item like Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, etc and on Easter money donate all those dollars to my parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society.
I’m currently getting ready to attend Ash Wednesday Mass followed by a parish soup lunch. It is a really lovely way to begin Lent with other like-minded people, all on different paths but the same journey. It reinforces the community of the church.

 In addition to my own commitments during Lent, Lent has three pillars of prayer, fasting (and abstinence), and almsgiving. Fasting and abstinence sound similar, but are very different in practice, and for me, Catholic fasting is much different than my decades of Yom Kippur fasting (which I still observe). Fasting during Lent is only required of those 18 through 59, and may include one regular meal as well as two smaller meals. Fast days in Lent are today, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Additionally, Fridays in Lent require abstinence from meat as well as other enjoyable sources, freeing us to grow closer to G-d.

My church also included a forty day calendar offering suggestions on ways to make Lent moe meaningful. It is provided from Take Five for Faith and I sill share it with you this weekend.

I will keep you updated on my progress and I hope you will comment with your own reflections and suggestions this Lenten season.

Lenten Fasting


There are three major things that we are repetitively reminded are a main focus of Lent: fasting, prayer, almsgiving. I don’t believe they are sacraments, but instead are traditions followed. Please correct me if I’m wrong. In my writings, I’ve often replaced fasting with penance. Both are important and often fasting leads to both prayer and penance at various times during our Lenten journeys.


When I was first going through the RCIA program, I was taught about Lent and the fasting that takes place on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday in addition to abstinence from meat on Fridays. I had grown up with many changes in my friends Catholic lives- no meat at all, no meat on Friday, etc. Growing up Jewish, I thought that I knew all about fasting. We fast one day out of the. year, the Day of Atonement; Yom Kippur.

It’s very simple. After age 13, barring any medical reason, you fast. No food or drink for about twenty-four hours, from sunset to sunset. Traditionally, the fast is broken with breakfast food, but I would often make a roast beef with potatoes and challah bread, very similar to what my mother in law makes at Christmas.

Lenten fast is a little bit different. And not quite as simple.

From 7 years old until the age of 59, we are expected to fast. In this case, fasting means one normal size meal with two smaller meals and no in between meal snacks. You may drink water as far as I know. The fast days are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On the Fridays of Lent, we are expected to abstain from meat. For our family, who have only two fish eaters and no cookers in the house, that usually means cheese pizza. Our church does a fish fry, which we try to attend at least once. Other good fish options in our area are Wendy’s Cod Sandwich (which is the best fast food fish sandwich I’ve tried) and Cracker Barrel who have a Fish fry every Friday even when it’s not Lent. Red Robin’s fish sandwich or plate are also good alternative options. We also have a local pizza place that has a fish fry during Lent.

So many rules for one simple thing – don’t eat.

I tend to follow the rules of Yom Kippur for the most part during the Lenten fast days although I do eat dinner as my solitary meal.

On both fast days, my church has either Mass or a prayer service so much of my day is taken up with prayer. Ash Wednesday has three options for receiving ashes. Good Friday has a prayer service, Stations of the Cross in the afternoon and then the Lord’s Passion in the evening.
I spend the rest of the day reading from my missal and The Little Black Book that I’ve mentioned before.I think. I meditate. I write.

As many of you have already seen, my writing is a part of each facet of my life, including, and especially, my spiritual life.

Fasting is one aspect of moving closer to G-d during this contemplative season.

Tomorrow: Prayer

Day 1 of Lent – What to Give Up


Ash Wednesday is here. It feels much earlier than usual, although I guess it feels that way every year. I’ve been contemplating what to give up this year, and it’s a real struggle. I feel sometimes that my choices are too easy, but while it shouldn’t be impossible, it should be a little difficult. I should be able to notice that something is missing and then give pause on why I chose to eliminate that from my life for the next forty days.

I thought bacon. But I don’t really eat that much bacon. Mostly on cheeseburgers when we go out to eat. We almost never buy bacon on its own for our house, although I have had cravings for BLTs in the past. Maybe we should give up eating out for Lent.

I thought Netflix. Well, at least the rerun parts of Netflix. The repeated binge watching of television series over and over and over again. The TV is constantly on in our house (less now but it’s still an issue; my habit). Netflix has taken the place of constant cable news that I gave up after the last election (2012). The problem with giving this up is that Supernatural reruns are my go-to white noise. I can do almost anything else while Supernatural is on, especially the early seasons. It’s a comfort thing. Supernatural was there when my depression returned and I needed another med adjustment. Supernatural kept me from being listless and lethargic.

There’s always the internet, Facebook and/or Kindle. I know several people who give up either the internet or Facebook for Lent. This doesn’t make sense for me since that is my family and primary school communication, I do most of my writing online in the clouds and on my kindle, so it’s much more than a crutch. For some of my family, this is the only place they get to see pictures of my kids, and I theirs. Used well, Facebook is a G-dsend.

Ice Cream? Uh, I don’t know.

Chocolate? Been there, done that.

Diet Coke? Ditto.

McDonald’s Breakfast Burritos? But I love them! I would eat them every day if I could.

Starbucks? That goes so close with my writing that I’m not sure that I could do without it for forty days. Maybe…

These are all things on my maybe list. I’ve given up some of them before. Some were harder than others; much harder.

On Monday morning, I began to read The Little Black Book. I’ve enjoyed these “Little” books seasonally, both in paper format and e-book. On Monday, it talked about fasting and abstinence (which is much different from the Yom Kippur fasting that I was used to.) One of the things mentioned was that “the church no longer attempts to prescribe Lenten practices in detail” and “choosing practices that are adapted to one’s own circumstances.” This implied to me that I was not expected to give something up if it didn’t fit with my other “penitential season” practices.

I’m not sure my priest would agree, and after the initial burst of wishful thinking, I went back to the list in my mind. It also felt a little like when I was a kid and didn’t want to stop writing on the High Holy Days because they weren’t really work. For me it wasn’t something to meditate on the meaning of; it was a cop-out. Again, that’s for my personal feelings and perspective. We all need to come to our own place this Lenten season.

Choosing an item isn’t just about the item itself; it’s about the introspection, the prayerful thoughts that go into the choosing, what makes this item important enough to make the giving up a sacrifice?

Not only that, but how is the giving up part of the larger idea of what Lent is all about – the penance and the getting ourselves ready for Christ’s sacrifice for us? Certainly, whatever we give up doesn’t compare to His sacrifice for us. It is but a small imitation, but it’s all we can offer.

So how do we continue to give.our Lenten experiences meaning year after year?

I could give up brussel sprouts. I don’t hate them, but we almost never eat them. Does that count?

The truth is, the only one who can tell me if it counts is me. Trying to get out of it doesn’t hurt anyone or change the meaning for anyone but me. Who am I observing Lent for in the first place?

The responsibility is on me because the benefit, whatever that might be spiritually is also on me.

I’ve decided to give up the breakfast burritos and ice cream. Tuesday morning was my last burrito until after Easter and Tuesday night was my last bowl of ice cream (black cherry chocolate chunk). Something from the morning and something from the night to remind me each day right after I wake up and right before I go to bed that these forty days are different.

How else will I make them different? And how will they change me for the rest of the year?

Time will tell.

Reflection – Ash Wednesday


As I find myself observing my first Ash Wednesday since my baptism into the Catholic faith (I observed two before today), I am hesitant to choose that one something to give up. There are truly so many things available to me, not necessarily bad habits that need eliminating or rectifying or sins that need reconciling, but between candy and dessert, soda and McDonald’s Breakfast Burritos, television and internet, the present list goes on like a persistent gnaw at my subconscious, and I’m not sure where my Lenten (or should I say life -) priorities should lie.

In addition to giving something up, what do I add to my day to encourage me in my spiritual contemplation, the new awakening to my continuing faith journey? In the past, I’ve committed to a daily reflection. Unfortunately this has lasted about two days. Maybe I’ve taken on too much, been overly ambitious, trying to publish a missive rather than a thought.

Should I pray more?

Should I give myself some extra alone time in the morning to reflect and ruminate? Perhaps use as a model the Daily Examen of St. Ignatius?

Everything I’ve mentioned and thought about for this Lent looks good and interests me, but so far none feel right; none feel faithful.

None fit.

They all feel forced, a put-uponing rather than a release, a lethargy of excuses rather than an arousing of spirit or a growth to carry me through these next forty days.

I am at odds with myself and it all feels muddled; a disarray of good intentions amid the clutter of listlessness, torn between excessive piousness and not enough, walking the fine line of knowing who this Lent is for – my outer self or my inner soul.

As I spend the rest of today in G-d’s grace, I’m hoping He will show me which direction to take at this Ash Wednesday crossroads.

Lenten Quotations


Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy

.– Pope Francis

You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.

— A.J. Gordon

Remember that lent and ash Wednesday is not just about putting away the bad things. It is about creating good things and helping the poor and the needy, being kind to people and much more.

— Jacob Winters

It is not just about giving up our favorite food but its about going further and giving up things like hatred and unforgiveness. You need to clean your heart and prepare yourself for purity.

— Amanda Jobs

For 36 more quotes about Lent, and for the source of these for, go here.

Ash Wednesday


This is my first post since beginning Lent.

This morning I realized that this is my first rite since deciding to become Catholic. I’ve been going to Mass, but I’ve never participated in any sacraments. And I’m actually not allowed to because I’m not baptized. However, I was told receiving ashes is not a sacrament.

But it is a rite.

And in realizing that it is my first one, this is actually a big deal for me.

It stops being ‘hanging out in church three days a week, sometimes four’, and solidifies my commitment to Christ. It is almost (or really past) time to start telling my family about my decision. Except for who is reading this, I’ve only told my best friend, my priest, my therapist and my husband (in that order). My family is not very religious, but I still worry about their reaction. Part of it is not only a step forward in my faith, but also in my continuing journey. Asserting myself positively as I become more myself. Asking my family to accept me as I grow and change.

As part of that first step, I was nervous walking into the gathering space. There was no room for deep breaths. The door opens and there are people waiting for you, and then I start to have a little panic thing going on. I don’t know what to do.

The Father greeted me with hello, and I respond with a good morning, and then go on to receive my ashes. I don’t know what the woman said to me. She smiled, reached her thumb out to my forehead, and said something. I think I thanked her, although I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do that. At least, no one laughed at me.

Once she touched my forehead, though, I no longer felt weird.

I belonged.

I was in the right place, doing the right thing, and I could feel it.

Mass went as usual, but it felt big.


Some days the Mass does feel that way. You can feel, literally feel the Spirit upon you and those days feel Big.

Today was one of those days.

There’s music, but it’s somber.

There are no Alleluias. Father told us yesterday that those were the last ones until after Lent.

The Deacon is back from his holiday.

All of the vestments are purple. Having a young daughter, I always think of purple as a happy color, but adorning the church and the Christ on His Cross, it is dark and muted and thoughtful, and not at all happy.

There’s penitence, and apologies, but certain words evoke certain images, and every time for me, when I hear penitent, I hear Sean Connery’s voice, and then Harrison Ford:

“A penitent man. Kneels before G-d!”

And then the Father uses the phrase, ‘a Lenten Pilgrimage’ and I smile broadly. That is what I called it yesterday in this very space, and I know that I am traveling in a new direction. I have everything I need, and I am ready.

I bow my head to receive the prayer.

And thus begins my first Lent.