The Lenten season has begun – and the first couple of days are a tough adjustment. You’re likely giving up certain habits or foods, changing up your routine, and it can be … hard. But don’t get discouraged right at the start! If you need a bit of a pep talk to get you pumped up for Lent, you’ve come to the right place.
Fr. Paul Cannariato, a priest in the Archdiocese of Newark, stopped by Morning Air® this week to talk about making the most of Lent, and he pointed out that rather than focusing on what we are giving up, we should focus on what we have to gain through our Lenten sacrifices.
“I think you have to begin by having enthusiasm about the season of Lent and to realize its purpose,” he said. “Its purpose is to make us into stronger believers, stronger Catholics. And it is through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that we are invited to make the most of it, to enter into these disciplines, and really live them fully in our lives each day.”
No Pain, No Gain
Discipline is one of the most challenging aspects of the Lenten season. But achieving any great goal requires discipline and sacrifice, right? What better goal is there than growing in relationship with the Lord in order to spend eternity with Him in heaven?
“It’s the narrow way, not necessarily the easy way,” Fr. Cannariato pointed out. “Sometimes we have to take that narrow way that God gives us. Lent is challenging. But Lent should be challenging. That’s what it’s all about. It should be a challenge to us, and God will give us the graces to meet that challenge. God will help us to make the most of Lent by entering into that discipline of prayer.”
Self-denial and fasting is another pillar of Lent, which can be particularly challenging these days. We’ve just had a year in which we had to give up so much, and so sacrificing something else can make you feel defeated. But Fr. Cannariato noted that when we recognize the purpose of fasting we can approach it with a sense of joy rather than a sense of dread.
“It’s not a fasting from it’s a fasting for,” he said. “We’re fasting for a greater walk with God, to be more like Jesus who gave of Himself, who gave His life for us. That’s the focus.”
“When we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him great things can happen in our lives. We can become more and more like Jesus. So the discipline of fasting, of self-denial, is not something that should be looked at negatively, but certainly in a positive way. Because the graces that it brings to our lives allows us to be a greater witness of Christ in the world.”
No Fear, No Limits
One of the most important things you can do during Lent is to go to Confession. It’s one of the precepts of the Church (the minimum requirements for a practicing Catholic) to go to Confession once a year, and many parishes have penance services during the season of Lent. But fear of Confession keeps many people away for years or even decades.
Fr. Cannariato encouraged listeners to not let fear limit their relationship with the Lord, because God’s love and mercy is limitless.
“Do not be afraid to go to Confession,” he pleaded. “The priest is delighted to see you. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been away, he’s there to welcome you, he’s there to give you the opportunity to grow in holiness. He wants you to come to the sacrament. Don’t be afraid if you’ve been away for a long time and are hesitant to approach the sacrament because of that.”
If you needed a little pep talk to go to Confession (even if it’s been ages), listen to the encouragement of Fr. Cannariato, who said, “We want people to come to the sacrament and experience the forgiveness that God wants to give you. The priest wants to welcome you, to give you that opportunity to experience God’s forgiveness, His love, and His encouragement to grow in holiness and love.”
Listen to the full pep talk with Fr. Cannariato below: