Christian Counseling guides for Lent
Christian Counseling sessions should guide people towards a proper Lenten attitude. The words, “What did you give up for Lent” are important but also naïve. They are important because they emphasize the necessity of the spiritual time of Lent but also naïve because the Great Fast encompasses so much more than simply giving things up. The time of Lent is a time of spiritual renewal and focus on Christ not merely giving up chocolate or cake because it is a ritual you have done since grade school. The sacrifice must have meaning and sacrifice.
On many occasions, people give up things that have no relation to their spiritual life. Ideals such as going on a diet during Lent are totally unspiritual and not related to one’s spiritual growth. As well as such proclamations that one will give up smoking. These ideas are all good ideas but when one attempts to “double dip’ and package a diet as a Lenten sacrifice, then one trying to fool is themselves that this is actually a spiritual exercise.
During Christian Counseling, one should push one’s spiritual children towards true spiritual sacrifices that teach self control and help the body learn the mastery of the soul. These sacrifices teach the body self control but also remind one of the sacrifice of Christ. One should offer up these small sacrifices with a smile and boasting. Only too many times, do we see people boasting of their sacrifices. What does that merit? Did not Christ say to look clean when fasting? Did not Christ also emphasize the value of the man who prays quietly in the back of the Church? Christ stated the Father sees everything be not concerned what your fellow man witnesses.
Yet, even merely giving something up that is relevant is still naïve to the whole purpose of Lent. Lent is about growing spiritually. How does one grow spiritually besides fasting with the Church during Lent? People should find extra time for prayer, scripture and other forms of spiritual meditation that bring one closer to Christ. Pious practices such as the Stations of the Cross, or finding a particular prayer or novena are also important. In addition to this, performing examination of conscience and finding a particular vice that haunts oneself is important. After discovering the vice, one should work on that vice all Lent and hope to conquer it with the opposing virtue. If one exhibits spiritual sloth, one should vigorously work against it by pushing oneself to weekly Mass or Church service and emphasizing both morning and evening prayer. Also, for those who already have a health spiritual life, one should perhaps venture into deeper waters and attend daily Mass or conduct a daily scripture class with friends. Also spiritual exercises such as St. Ignatius or others throughout the ages that within the norms of Christian orthodoxy should be examined. Finally, one should show love of neighbor. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy and alms giving should be considered during this time.
One should avoid the narrow secularist’s interpretation of Lent where Christians merely give up chocolate or cake and not eat meat on Friday but should seek to a better spiritual awakening through an enhanced prayer life that seeks to build moral character and eliminate vice. Certified Spiritual Christian Counselors can help with this.