February has come and gone and we are hopefully at the tail-end of this year’s winter season. The month of March welcomes us with new possibilities and promises of renewal and new life. This is also a special season in the life of our church calendar, as we enter into the holy season of Lent. This week we begin Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. We will receive ashes on our foreheads as a sign of humility and penance, for Lent is a season of penance and preparation. Lent makes me think of rebirth in our spiritual life. Because Lent invites us into a deeper experience of God through penance, it also allows for a possibility for some much needed spiritual care. We speak of three penitential acts which allow us to enter into the season of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. First, there is prayer. Jesus tells us that we don’t really know how to pray, unless the Holy Spirit teaches us. No saint considered himself or herself as an expert in prayer, they were all beginners, and so are we. The nice thing about seeing ourselves as beginners in prayer is that we don’t have to expect to know what we are doing, but rather, we continue to try to pray. Traditionally Lent lends itself to prayers that invite us into the passion of Jesus Christ, into the experience of His moments of difficulty, with such devotional prayers as Stations of the Cross, Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, reading and meditating on the passion accounts from the Gospels, etc. And then there is fasting, a form of praying with our bodies. Traditionally, Fridays of Lent are to be especially devoted to fasting in honour of our Lord’s suffering on the Cross which happened on a Friday. We all grew up with the practice of fasting through abstaining from meat on Fridays, but the Church allows us to substitute this practice with some other form of penance. And thirdly, there is almsgiving. This practice helps us to be focused less on ourselves and more on others. Sharing some of what we have with others, especially if what I’m sharing is what I’m going to notice or even miss, helps us to be more like our Heavenly Father who shared His very Son with us. Take some time over the next few days and make some concrete decisions about your Lent. Take something up for Lent (prayer, volunteering, reading, etc.) and give something up (fasting, almsgiving, entertainment, etc.), so that your Lent may be a time of renewal and new life.