Growing up, I loved baseball. I loved the game, the practice, my teammates and afterward, reminiscing about the game. Several years ago, my wife and I attended spring training for the St. Louis Cardinals in Florida.
Before Lent started this year, my wife and I discussed how we could make this Lenten season more fruitful individually and as a couple. I look forward to spending more time in silence with God and praying with my wife every day.
As my love for God and baseball intertwines this time of year, I have realized what a gift the season of Lent is. Similar to baseball, the 40 days of Lent is our spiritual spring training — time to build up our spiritual muscles and prepare ourselves for the Easter season (and beyond) to spread the Good News of the Gospel and our relationship with Jesus to others. Did you know that the word “Lent” means “spring?”
Here are some things to keep in mind during your spiritual spring training:
• If you want to get better at something, you have to schedule time to do it. Whether it’s sports, growing in faith or developing a friendship, you have to be intentional and make time for it. We all have calendars on our phones; schedule time with Jesus. The key is to practice every day.
• Unlike baseball spring training, you don’t have to worry about making the team. You are already part of the Body of Christ! Don’t worry about comparing your statistics to others. God doesn’t care. He wants you to be the best you that you can be.
• Develop good spiritual habits. These are called virtues — practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving until they become second nature. God wants us to be generous with all of our gifts and especially the one gift that means the most to us — this help us put God first in everything.
• Once Lent is over, don’t stop your daily time in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Keep going through the rest of the year. Have you heard of the 21/90 rule? It takes 21 days to create a habit and 90 days to make that habit a part of your lifestyle. It’s no coincidence that the seasons of Lent, 40 days, and Easter, 50 days, equal 90 days. The more “God-centered” you become, the more your friendship with Jesus will blossom. This becomes the base for next year’s spiritual spring training.
• We all like to reminisce, to tell stories about “the good ole days.” When we put this in a spiritual context, this is simply what evangelization is – sharing our relationship with Jesus with others. People love to talk about people we love. We do it all the time. If Jesus matters in your life, share it with others.
• Our Catholic faith and our relationship with Jesus is a team sport, not an individual one. Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples.” Once we are fed, we are called to feed others. We shouldn’t just keep the faith, we also need to share the faith. We all have a part in God’s salvation plan. If you don’t do your part, who will?
• It’s never too late to start. Start small. Keep it simple. Don’t get overwhelmed with all the Catholic resources that are available. Pick one or two and stay with it. Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do.
We do things for people we love all the time, not because we necessarily like doing them, but because it makes the ones we love happy. Change your perspective on Lent – do it for Jesus, because it will make Him happy.
David Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County.