Every year Catholics around the world prepare for the Easter season with forty days of fasting and prayer. Easter is that wonderful time of year when we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. It is preceded by Lent, a season of self-examination, fasting and penance in preparation for our Easter Day celebration.

The Catholic Church begins Lent each year on Ash Wednesday. This is a time to reflect on our own mortality and the need for ongoing repentance. The ashes, applied to the forehead in the sign of the cross, remind us that we are from dust and to dust we shall return.

And while some of this may sound bleak, the reality is that during the forty days of Lent we are preparing our hearts and soul for Easter – a joyous celebration of the resurrection of our Lord!

As you being your Lenten fast this year, try something new. Service is just as important as sacrifice when it comes to preparing for Easter. Below is a list of some things you can do for Lent from prayer, to fasting, to service. Ash Wednesday is March 1 this year!

1. Prayer of Examen each day: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen
2. Pray the Liturgy of the Hours: http://universalis.com/
3. Go on a mini-pilgrimage – set aside a day during Lent to visit a nearby monastery, basilica, or national shrine.
4. Give up pessimism and sarcasm, and replace them with wonder, hope, and compassion.
5. If you give up something such as coffee or sweets, donate the money saved to a mission or charity. We can think of some wonderful missions to support!
6. Wake up early every morning for prayer and contemplation, even if it is just five minutes.
7. Don’t buy anything you don’t NEED – Focus on how God helps provide for you needs. You will probably save quite a few dollars. Consider adding it to your savings or donating some it.
8. No gossiping! Just like the old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
9. Say something nice to someone (family, friends, or strangers) at least once a day. Try to notice the clerk at the grocery store. One small act of kindness can change a person’s day.
10. Take time to learn more about the life of Catholics and Christians in other countries – you will begin to see how wonderfully diverse and spiritual our world really is!
11. Attend Mass on a weekday or attend Eucharistic Adoration.
12. Switch from regular radio to Christian radio or Catholic talk radio – even if just for your morning commute.
13. Find a way to give more of your time to your local parish or community – volunteer at the food pantry, visit the sick in your parish, visit a nursing home, bring a meal to the fire station, etc.
14. Study the life of a different saint every day. There are so many to choose from! Maybe you could start with St. Daniel Comboni.
15. List five things you are grateful for every day.