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Five out-of-the box Lenten devotions

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Want to try something a little different for Lent? The liturgical season is an important time to examine our lives, but it is also the perfect time to discover new things about the church and the Catholic faith. Several organizations have created devotionals that help direct the classic elements of Lent —  prayer, fasting and almsgiving —  toward a specific intention or theme.  Here are a few:


To stand in solidarity with impoverished communities worldwide:


Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl 


Every Lent, people, assemble the Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl and slip spare change into the slot, accruing a hefty donation by the time Easter arrives. Less well-known is the Lenten calendar that accompanies the bowl.


The daily devotional introduces the reader to the innovative and hard-working people CRS helps. It includes meatless recipes from different cultures to place participants in solidarity with the many people who cannot afford to eat meat on a regular basis. Some days feature spiritual quotes and suggested reading. Other days encourage people to donate money, for example, “Give 50 cents each time you threw away food this week.”


To learn how to care for creation:


Lenten Creation Care from Interfaith Power and Light


It’s not easy being green, but this daily calendar includes spiritual reflections and simple ways to save energy and advocate for God’s creation.


“This year we’re reflecting on the moral and spiritual crisis that Pope Francis points to as the root of our environmental problems,” said Catherine Goggins, a D.C. and Northern Virginia Interfaith Power and Light organizer.


The area-based calendar also gives Catholics a chance to interact with other Christians at events in Northern Virginia, such as an outdoor gathering with Fairlington United Methodist Church. “I love that this is a season we can share with all of our Christian sisters and brothers,” said Goggins.


The sacrificial and environmental-friendly challenges, such as taking public transportation to church or hanging laundry to dry, are perfect for the Lenten season. As a supplement, consider praying through Pope Francis' encyclical “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home.”


To pray with the saints:


Give Up, Take Up, Lift Up! from the U. S. Conference of  Catholic Bishops


The conference’s “inspiration for your Lenten journey” is a daily calendar that reminds participants of feast days and encourages them to pray for a special intention of that particular saint. For example, the March 9 devotion says to “Remember St. Frances of Rome, known for her great charity during epidemics and civil war. In honor of St. Frances, pray for all those who are marginalized.” The calendar also asks participants to donate during the second collection on Sundays, to go to confession and to read the Bible.


Supplement your walk with the saints by reading a book written by a saint. Try making a pilgrimage to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington or to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md. 


To pray for the least of these:


Catholic Mobilizing Network Lenten Reflections


The Catholic Mobilizing Network exists to abolish the death penalty, but this Lent they will publish weekly Scripture-based personal reflections from a variety of social justice advocates. Learn about a prison chaplain’s experience ministering to men on death row or one woman’s interaction with Syrian refugees. Round out your Lenten sacrifice by donating money to the Catholic Mobilizing Network and by praying for the six men currently on Virginia’s death row, for their families and their victims’ families.


To take a virtual pilgrimage to the poorest Catholic communities in the country:


Catholic Extension Digital Immersion Trip


Since 1905, Catholic Extension has given $500 million to more than 90 poor mission dioceses around the country. The organization builds and repairs churches, funds vocational training and supports priests, church professionals and Catholic schools. “(In these dioceses), economic resources are scarce, but the people are rich in faith,” according to their website.


During Lent, Catholic Extension will have weekly devotionals that showcase the collaborative work of Catholic Extension and local Catholics in poor mission dioceses. Participants will meet a married couple who serve as parish life coordinators for an Indian reservation in Montana, the campus minister of Florida State University and a Louisiana woman who helps families visit inmates at the state penitentiary. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017