Retreat in the Desert: Looking Ahead to Lent 2021

Photo from Unspoken Elements (

Photo from Unspoken Elements (

Emily Thomas, Social Media Coordinator

As we approach the season of Lent this year, many may feel discouraged that the past year has felt like an extremely long Lent. At this time last year, Gym Meet practices were in full swing, and we started Lent with an Ash Wednesday prayer service as a community. Only a few weeks later, everything changed. Some may be wondering how these 40 days are going to be any different from the past 11 months of limited social interaction and the mundane feeling of virtual classes. It is easy to continue on this cycle and stumble through this liturgical season as any other month in the pandemic, but Lent is an extraordinary period of time to refocus and allow the Lord to lead us into the dryness of the desert and ultimately to Calvary. Through the struggles of the present, we know what eventually takes place on Easter morning, the magnificence of the Resurrection. This glorious mystery was not just an event of the past, but continues even now throughout our lives.

The three traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving may look a little different this year, but everyone can work to incorporate them into the domestic churches of our homes. There is an abundance of ways to bring these three themes into our busy days on the computer, so feel free to get creative!

Prayer doesn’t have to seem long and boring. In the morning when you first wake up, take a few moments to thank God for another day and talk to Him about what you hope to accomplish that day in the time that you would normally use to check your phone. Other ideas include the traditional practice of praying through the Stations of the Cross on Fridays with your family or reflecting on the daily Gospel reading (I highly recommend Bishop Barron’s daily Gospel reflections, which can be sent directly to your inbox). At the end of a long day or even on the way home from school, look back over your day and ask the Holy Spirit to help you see where he was working in your life that day or listen to prayerful music. There are infinite possibilities for your prayer time, and it doesn’t have to look the same each day! The most important aspect of prayer is growing closer to God.

Fasting is not something that excites many people, myself included. But so much grace comes from the discipline of self-control. While we all love social media and can easily waste away our days scrolling through TikTok, it can also be a source of anxiety and stress for many. This would be the perfect time to cut back on screen time or cut social media completely. Of course, there are countless other ways to fast such as leaving the afternoon snack behind or ordering a small coffee rather than a large. Or you could just bring back the childhood memories of giving up chocolate for Lent.

Lastly, the practice of almsgiving may seem foreign to us, since I’m sure not many of us have huge wads of cash to hand out. However, there is another precious resource that we all have — time. During this season, try to take a few extra minutes each day to help your parents with the groceries or to just spend time with them. Being present with family members can be challenging, but rewarding as well. If you don’t talk to your grandparents very often, you could give them a phone call to tell them about school. Another form of almsgiving could be going through your closet and donating items to Goodwill. We can all give alms, even if it’s not in the traditional sense!

Lent 2021 may bring a new set of difficulties, but we can wait in expectant hope for the Resurrection. Even small acts of prayer, fasting, and/or almsgiving throughout the season can be incredibly fruitful. During these next 40 days, step away from the virtual world and into the desert with Jesus, and trust that he is a good and faithful shepherd.