A Guide to a “Holy 40” Lent

LENT –  2019






So here’s why:

My basic take on Lent – at least this year – is that we need to break the routines of our lives to make room to progress, better ourselves, and in the process, make a better world.

Most of the popular fads, trends, training – both the good and bad ones – mean changing for a sustained period in order to “create a better you.”  Let me borrow form a currently popular one – “WHOLE 30” – and call Lent our “Holy 40” as we strive to create a better me.

Our Lenten HOLY 40 IS HOLISTIC, physical, spiritual, emotional; and also taking in all three essential relationships: with God, with others, with myself. Our bodies, our spirits, our emotions, and our relationships all need adjusting, strengthening and enhancing.  And our “whole 40” plan has three simple exercises; one for bettering each of these relationships.  Pray to get it better with God; fast and sacrifice to get better with yourself; help and serve to get it better with others.


Pray more.  Talk & Listen to God more. If you can only do one, it’s the listening to God that comes first. Be quiet and listen. If you want another way to listen to God, simply read the Bible and listen. Use your imagination and pretend you are hearing the voice of God from any classic Biblical movie.


  1. Say a short daily prayer about something you care about (two tweets worth). If it isn’t too sensitive and personal, maybe you could post two tweets.  It might help somebody else.
  2. Take ten minutes daily and just quietly tell God how much you are counting on him. Listen to him tell you he’ll be there for you.
  3. Take 15 minutes for the Bible every day. 
    • 5 minutes: read a Bible passage (maybe the daily readings);
    • 5 minutes: pick one verse that strikes you
    • 5 minutes: think about that verse and try to figure out one concrete way you will follow up on that verse.
  4. For all of Lent, make your communication with God aimless. Let God take the lead and take you in the direction he wants.  Save your “asks” of God for another day. You just might be surprised with what God has to offer to you.
  5. Choose a 10-minute playlist with only instrumental music (no words). Listen to it and let God supply the words.


Give in a way that helps someone or some others: money works, time volunteering helps, visiting someone in need in a hospital, or maybe even a prison – if you are bold enough. Here are a few other ways to help others or practice Almsgiving this Lent:

  1. Remember those who do not have as much as we may have to eat. Make sure to donate food to a food pantry, or simply give food to someone you see on the street.
  2. At work, school, family there’s always a pecking order. Pick somebody down the food chain from each of us. Do something to help that person.
  3. Pick someone near-by who has hurt us and actively move towards forgiving this Lent. It’s best if you can say that word directly to the person.  If not, then at least begin to say mercy in your own heart.
  4. Use your tongue to speak a gentle, not condemnatory word of encouragement to someone who seems down or depressed.
  5. Give 25 cents, $1, or $5 to someone who looks down and out.  Trust God to help the person to do the right thing with your money.  And if not, at least, the person will know you didn’t ignore him or her – that, in itself, is a gift.


Yup! You and I count. Fasting and sacrifice focus on our own wants and needs. Taking some sacrifice and fasting upon ourselves helps us to become more aware of our true needs, wants and desires.  They help to get us in better shape with ourselves. In Catholic circles, in my less than humble opinion, we’ve become whimps on fasting. Follow me as I provide a fasting compliant menu for Ash Wednesday & Good Friday:  Breakfast – cereal, juice and coffee; Lunch – tuna fish sandwich with coke; Dinner- Clam chowder; kale salad, Chilean sea bass, pilaf of rice, broccoli, wine, tiramisu, and espresso.  Fasting, really who are we kidding?

Take a look at some suggestions for fasting this Lent:

  1. Try approximating the Ramadan fast of our Muslim brothers and sisters for one or more days of Lent. Eat breakfast before the sun comes up, skip lunch and eat dinner after the sun goes down.
  2. Pass up one party or night out to remind yourself of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.
  3. Pick three waking hours, and turn off your cell phone.  (It’s less painful than hanging on a cross for three hours.)
  4. Un-google your life!  Forego looking up inconsequential information during Lent.
  5. Don’t buy a single frivolous item on Amazon.
  6. Reflect on a difficult, maybe unfair situation you are facing. Deal with it as directly as you can, stay true to your values and join your trial with Jesus and his cross.

Pick a few, or come up with your own, and stick with them for the 40 days.  They don’t work as well as “one-offs.”  We need to break the rhythm.

WE GET A BREAK – A Little Waiver or Dispensation

Spoiler alert! – Lent ain’t 40 days.  Maybe it used to be, but no longer. Please count them yourself – from Ash Wednesday to the Wednesday before Holy Thursday.  I get 43 days (Yes, Sundays count!).  So I think we get 3 days off from our Lenten practices and still keep the “40” days of Lent.    

You can pick them, HR “personal days.”  You don’t need any explanation or anything – just take them.

To help you through this Lent, I will be posting weekly reflections and prayers. Come back every Sunday morning and let’s walk through Lent together.

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