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Tips for a Successful Lent

If you are dreading Lent worried it will be another forty-day self-denial endurance race you already anticipate losing, consider these tips for a successful Lenten Season.

Tip #1 – Remind yourself Lent is not about you and your efforts.

Yourself, you, your  . . . three times this tip mentions the one person that Lent should not be focused on. The forty days of Lent reference the days Jesus spent in the desert following his baptism and before he entered into public ministry. Going off on his own to fast and pray for an extended period, Jesus was able to more easily turn his attention away from self and toward the will of God the Father. Lent should be the same for us. We can use this time period to free ourselves from focusing solely on our wants so we can more easily contemplate what God wills for our life. Missing a meal to spend an hour instead in quiet prayer daily, weekly, or as you can, is a positive step toward a successful Lent. 

Tip #2 – It is not a maybe . . . temptation will come.

Gospel scholars state that when Satan came to tempt our Lord in the desert, he was not yet certain Jesus was the Second Person of the Trinity come as promised by God to dwell among his people. Satan went to size him up, as he does with every soul, looking for where he was weak and vulnerable and most likely to be trapped. Pope Francis is currently teaching a Catechesis cycle on the subject of vices and virtues during his Wednesday Audience. In his first lesson on safeguarding our hearts from temptation, the pope is adamant about how we are to conquer temptation:

“Dear brothers and sisters, one must never dialogue with the devil. Never! You should never enter into conversation [with him]. Jesus never dialogued with the devil. He cast him out. And during his temptation in the wilderness, he did not respond with dialogue. He simply replied with the words of Holy Scripture, with the Word of God. Be careful: the devil is a seducer. Never dialogue with him, because he is smarter than all of us and he will make us pay for it. […] Be careful! One must not converse with the devil, and we must not entertain ourselves with temptation. There is no dialogue. Temptation comes: we close the door. We keep watch over our heart.”

For instance, if you want to stop gossiping, “dialoging with the devil” will begin the second the desire to gossip comes to mind if we don’t quickly snuff it out. The pope explains, “[…] evil does not begin in man and woman  […] when an act is already manifest, but that evil begins much earlier, when one begins to engage with it, to nurse it in the imagination, in thoughts, and ends up being ensnared by its enticements.” 

Tip #3 – Prepare a list of goods to replace our acts of self-denial.

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum, so when we remove a bad habit (eating too much junk food, gossiping, extended scrolling on social media, etc.) or deny ourselves self-rewards (i.e. sweets, alcohol, shopping, etc.) our nature seeks to fill the now empty space in us. Tip #3 encourages us to prepare a list of good things to replace what we have chosen to “give up” for Lent. For instance, if you are giving up dessert, make a list of go-to exchanges such as a healthy sweet like fruit, dates, one teaspoon of honey, or a sweet gesture, such as calling a friend, giving a compliment, or praising God. You can re-name the sweet that is tempting you with a disordered affection you are struggling to overcome such as anger, resentment or jealousy. When you are tempted to eat the sweet, look at it and say, “I reject, renounce, and rebuke anger/resentment/jealousy,” making your successful act of self-denial a double win!  But success or failure, it is the consistent attempts that bring victory.

To open ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit during Lent, the aforementioned Catechesis series by Pope Francis is an ideal help because it tackles the very subject (vice) that draws us into bad habits and selfish tendencies and away from God’s will for us. Consider reading a lesson a day or week (the pope has given seven so far) and putting his advice into practice. Our consistent attempts at developing the corresponding virtues serve to put us firmly on the path to God’s plan for us. Whether you succeed or fail . . . keep trying for that builds in us the virtue of fortitude.

Temptation to give up is a powerful weapon of the evil one. We can refuse to be his target by seeing Lent as a gift given by the Church; a reminder we are each on a life-long spiritual journey, traveling on a path successfully forged for us by Jesus Christ. Take time to rejoice on days you sprint through Lent, but on days you stumble or fall down completely, remain in hope . . . it is the consistent getting up again and following Jesus that joins us to his Resurrection victory on Easter Sunday.

Nan Balfour is a grateful Catholic whose greatest desire is to make our Lord Jesus more loved. She seeks to accomplish this through her vocation to womanhood, marriage, and motherhood, as a writer, Missionary of Hope, Prayer Intercessor, Speaker Team member, and Volunteer for Pilgrim Center of Hope.

Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit