Today is fat Tuesday, and Lent begins tomorrow. During this liturgical season, we faithful are asked to seek the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to practice self-control through fasting, and to serve by giving alms.
Lent is an ideal season to travel through with your parish’s women’s group because when we partner with friends in praying, fasting, and alms giving, we keep each other on track, bear each other’s burdens, and deepen our faith and friendships. Even if you don’t have a women’s group at your parish, Lent is a great time to reach out to a sister in Christ and invite her to accompany you through Lent.
St. Teresa of Ávila wrote that “Men of learning seem to get theology without much effort. But we women need to take it all in slowly and muse on it. We need to feel it.” What’s more, we need to experience the Christian life with the companionship of other women. There are many ways to experience Lent, but here are ten ideas for joining with other women in your community and to emulate the early disciples on the road to Emmaus – they accompanied each other as they came to recognize Christ in their midst. If we walk through Lent with sisters in Christ, we’re bound to help each other through this journey. Think about incorporating one of these ideas into your community.
- Learn and practice a new devotion together. Perhaps your group could learn about the Seven Sorrows Rosary, or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, or the Angelus. Devotions are a great way to learn a new way to meditate on the life of Jesus – often through the eyes of Our Blessed Mother or a saint.
- Make a pilgrimage to a nearby shrine or basilica. If you are a US reader, here are some Catholic Shrines and churches to explore stateside. In making a pilgrimage, you will have time to get to know sisters in Christ and have some dedicated time for prayer and contemplation.
- Participate in Stations of the Cross each Friday. During Lent, we remember Christ’s walk to the site of his crucifixion. The meditation helps us to understand the depth of Christ’s love for us. These Scriptural Stations of the Cross are a deep reflection on Christ’s passion. Some communities pair Friday stations of the cross with a soup dinner. This would be a great way not only to pray and break bread together, but it is also an opportunity to make an invitation for others to join in your fellowship. For my Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA readers, check out the Military Way of the Cross by Anni Harry at Beautiful Camouflage
- Host a recipe exchange of meatless recipes. This will help everyone remember to abstain from meat on Fridays. I recently gave a talk on my book Joyful Momentum to the Catholic women’s group at Ft. Meade, Maryland. After the talk, they presented me with a Lenten recipe book of meatless dishes that included everything from a hearty kale soup, to a “lent-shi” (sushi) roll. I’m grateful for the new ideas and my kids will be happy to have something more interesting that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.
- Make a decision in your women’s group to give something up together. Does your women’s group love gathering over a cup of coffee? What if you decided to give up the comfort of coffee as a Lenten fast? (I know, I know. I can hear the groaning.) But think how good that coffee talk will be during the first week of Easter!
- Instead of ladies’ night out, meet for a holy hour. Fasting during Lent should include abstaining from meat on Fridays, but it can also involve refraining from doing enjoyable activities as a sacrifice. Swapping out ladies’ night out for a holy hour together is a fast and a prayer that can help your community re-focus on the foundational relationship that you have with Jesus.
- Pray for the seminarians in your diocese on “Seminarian Saturday.” Each Saturday, the women’s ministry that I work with, the Military Council of Catholic Women, has “Seminarian Saturday” when we post the name a picture of one of our archdiocese’s seminarians on our social media and collectively pray for that man’s formation and priesthood. Being “Seminarian Saturday” in your women’s group and pray for the seminarians in your diocese.
- Feed the hungry. Reach out to a local food pantry, Catholic charity, or homeless shelter and serve a meal to the hungry each week during Lent. Pope Francis says that “Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ.”
- Take up a collection. If your women’s group meets weekly, consider taking up a collection at your gatherings and donating the collection to your parish, the bishop’s Lenten appeal, or another Catholic charity.
- Make blessing bags for the needy. Often when I’m in my car at a red light, a homeless person will approach me and ask for food or money. Make “blessing bags” to give to those in need. They could be simple ziplock bags with toiletries, gloves, socks, granola bars, or a few dollars to keep in your car so that you can quickly help someone in need.
If your women’s group prays, fasts, and gives alms together this Lent, you may find that your group wants to continue doing some of this Lenten work throughout the year. Be open to where the Holy Spirit may be prompting your group. How is your women’s group walking through Lent together?