Fr. James Martin, S.J.: Lent is a time for spiritual renewal

"The Penitent Magdalen" by Georges de La Tour, ca. 1640. (Met Museum)

Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Apple Podcasts


Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Google Play

Join our Patreon Community

How has your Lent been going? Lent and Advent are two times of the year when Catholics really try to rev up their spiritual lives. And often we can get down on ourselves for not maintaining our Lenten sacrifices, or not praying more, or fasting more, or not giving more alms. So Lent ends up not being a time of spiritual renewal but getting down on ourselves. And that can defeat the whole purpose of Lent, which is a spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ in a new way into our lives at Easter, not beating ourselves up or feeling ashamed about our lack of spiritual progress. The deeper purpose is what’s called a “metanoia,” a Greek word used often in the Gospels. That’s often translated as “repentance,” but it’s better translated as a complete change of mind and heart. So it’s not about whether you were able to successfully give up chocolate, but whether your mind and heart are more willing to accept Jesus more fully into your life. And that is a lifelong project. So don’t get too down on yourself if your Lent hasn’t been perfect. Be easy with yourself. But keep taking those steps towards God.     

[Don’t miss any of the latest writings, podcasts and videos from Father Martin. Sign up for his newsletter.]

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

More: Lent / Prayer

The latest from america

From a unity deeper than citizenship, that of baptism, we implore our fellow Christians: Join us in denouncing this violence, and help us understand what distance is left between that nationalism and yours.
David AlbertsonSeptember 19, 2019
Pope Francis poses for a photo on Sept. 18 with members of a U.S. delegation that traveled to Rome to present the results of the Fifth National Encuentro to the pope and top Vatican officials.
Some 40 percent of the U.S. Catholic community has a Hispanic background and that “more than 50 percent of the Catholics in the United States under the age of 18 are Hispanic.”
Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 19, 2019
It is not about the individual as much as the movement that gave Donald Trump power. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Holly Taylor Coolman writes that her pro-life views, empathy for some Republican voters and unease with polarization has complicated her early and consistent opposition to Donald Trump.
Holly Taylor CoolmanSeptember 19, 2019
Non-scale spiritual victories come when we see ourselves clearly and holistically, when we pray without prodding because God is real and someone to talk to.
Simcha FisherSeptember 19, 2019