Question: Lent always seems to help me renew my relationship with God and strengthen my religious practice. Do you have any suggestions as to what I could do to achieve that the rest of the year?
Answer: The obvious answer may seem to be to do whatever you do during Lent all year round. But part of the power of Lent is that we focus as a community on renewing our faith and preparing for Easter. Our Lenten practices have a purpose and a goal. Therein lies the secret. When we focus our efforts on one virtue, or try to change one bad habit, or seek to deepen our understanding of one aspect of faith, we focus our efforts and give our full attention to what we are trying to accomplish. We tend to be more successful achieving our goals. More importantly, it has a ripple effect in our lives: one thing changes or is added to the spiritual mix of our lives and many aspects are changed.
All too often we leave our spiritual growth to chance and the practice of faith to habit, and then wonder why we have no sense of growth or progress. Think of it in terms of exercise. We walk, lift weights, bend and stretch to attain the maximum benefit from what we do. In addition, to keep those benefits, we eat healthful food and get enough vitamins and rest. Spirituality requires the same kind of attention: we pray, fast, read the Bible, receive sacraments, and do charitable work to maximize the benefits of practicing faith. Keeping Lent year round keeps us in spiritual shape!