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Some of the Best Advice As You Prepare for Lent

ash wednesday cross

When we give up something for Lent — whatever that might be, we’re ultimately going to be tempted to fill that desire with something else. So the best Lenten advice we can share with you is to prepare for that — to know that you’re going to be tempted, and to have a plan for what you’re going to do in that moment.

So when you consider what to give up this Lent, also plan for what you’ll replace it with… Because every time we say “no” to something, we’re saying “yes” to something else — even if we don’t realize it.

So here are some of our suggestions of what you can replace the thing you’re giving up with… Things you can say “yes” to while you say “no” to what you’re giving up:

+ If you’re giving up social media: Replace it with reading the daily Mass readings, or a daily devotional, or replace it with listening to a podcast (like ours or the Bible in a Year podcast). Text a friend about what you’re reading. Put a picture of a short prayer as the background of your phone and pray it every time you reach for it.

+ If you’re giving up podcasts, tv shows, or movies: Replace it with watching or listening to Catholic talks that help you grow in your faith life, like the online Pray More Lenten Retreat, or Formed videos, or daily homilies you can find online. Take the time you would have spent watching a show and pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, or visit the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.

+ If you’re giving up complaining: Replace it with a journal of gratitude and praise for the Lord. Write down the little blessings you see around you throughout your day. Plan to share an encouragement or compliment with someone each day. Say prayers of gratitude every morning before getting out of bed and every night as you fall asleep.

+ If you’re giving up shopping: You can donate what you no longer need or volunteer your time during Lent. You could visit a friend you haven’t seen in a while, and ask them if they need something before you drop by.

+ If you’re giving up any sort of food or drinks: You can replace it with a prayer for those who are hungry and in need. For people who are lonely or forgotten, or for the souls in Purgatory. You can volunteer to make a meal for someone in your parish.

Whatever you give up, we hope these suggestions will be helpful for you to have a fruitful Lent.

The Lord is with you as you pray, fast, and give! And these sacrifices for the Lord are one way that we can grow in holiness during Lent.

The Hidden Faithful

In the history of Catholicism, several saints practiced their faith and devotion in secretive ways particularly when faced with the threat of persecution and other adversities. 

These saints were not embarrassed of their faith nor did they fear martyrdom for their faith; instead, they concealed some aspects of their lives for a time so they could more efficiently build up the Kingdom of God during dark and difficult times. 

Here are a few of those hidden faithful:

Saint Sebastian

St. Sebastian lived during Emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. 

Sebastian joined the Roman army and was given a high position in the Praetorian Guard but unbeknownst to the leaders, Sebastian was a Christian. He worked to help those being persecuted and converted many people to the faith, including many prominent people. 

Because of this, Sebastian’s faith was soon found out and the Emperor ordered him to be killed. 

Suggested Novena Start Date: January 12.  St. Sebastian Novena

St. Anastasia Novena

Other saints emerged during the persecution under Diocletian, including Saint Anastasia. Saint Anastasia secretly cared for the imprisoned Christians, bringing them food and tending to their suffering. When her pagan husband learned of Anastasia’s charitable work, he beat her and imprisoned her.

After his death, she continued to care for the persecuted faithful before being arrested for her faith. The threat of torture and death did not sway her to abandon her belief or her vow of virginity which had remained intact even throughout her marriage. 

Suggested Novena Start Date: December 17

St. Charles Lwanga

St. Charles Lwanga lived in Uganda in the 1800s and served at the court of his country’s ruler, King Mwanga II of Buganda–a harsh, violent, and immoral man.

Charles Lwanga became a Christian and took over the secret role of heading Christian instruction for the other members of the court. However, when the King learned about the spreading of the faith among his servants, he demanded the Christians renounce their faith. 

Charles, however, courageously refused and led the others to do the same. He baptized the catechumens before they marched to the place of their executions, and they faced martyrdom with joy and love for God. 

Suggested Novena Start Date: May 26

For more novenas to the martyrs of the Church, read this blog post. 

Saint Margaret Clitherow

St. Margaret Clitherow was an English laywoman who lived during the persecutions of Catholics under the rule of Queen Elizabeth I. She was fined and jailed several times for refusing to attend Anglican services.

Margaret allowed priests to hide and celebrate Mass in her home, despite the government declaring that harboring priests is a capital offense. She also rented another house to hide priests in and to have them say Mass in.

She was later put to death for her actions and died a martyr for her bravery. 

Suggested Novena Start Date: August 22

St. Nicholas 

Many traditional tales surrounding St. Nicholas involves him secretly leaving gifts or performing acts of charity in the night to help poor families in need. 

He likely took inspiration from Jesus’ words to his disciples in the Gospel of Matthew: “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Suggested Novena Start Date: November 28 

Saint Margaret of Castello

St. Margaret of Castello lived her faith in secret for a different reason than the others. Margaret was born with many physical disabilities to powerful noble parents. As her parents wanted to protect their reputation, they confined Margaret to a secret room for 14 years. 

This room was near the chapel and she could overhear mass being said and receive communion. While few people showed her love, the parish priest recognized her great faith and capacity for holiness.

She faced many more hardships in her life but faced them all with a devout faith and profound love of God. 

Suggested Novena Start Date: April 5

Blessed Miguel Pro

Blessed Miguel Pro was a Mexican Priest who lived during the persecution of Catholics. He ministered to the persecuted in many stealthy ways to continue to bring them the sacraments and teach them the faith, helping others to live out their Christian identities during such a dark time.

Blessed Miguel Pro would even dress up in disguises to avoid suspicion; he dressed as a beggar, a businessman with a flower lapel, and even a police officer to slip into jail to visit those who had been imprisoned for being Catholic.

He eventually was caught and sentenced to death by firing squad. He died boldly proclaiming “Vivo Cristo Rey!” or “Long Live Christ the King!”

Suggested Novena Start Date: November 15

The Ulma Family

Pope Francis recently beatified the Ulma Family–a Polish family of nine who were martyred during the Holocaust. 

This humble and devout family consisted of Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their seven children: Stanisława, Barbara, Władysław, Franciszek, Antoni, Maria, and their unborn baby.

During the persecution of the Jews by the Nazis, the Ulma Family responded to injustice with courage and compassion as they offered to hide, shelter, and protect Jewish families facing arrest and death. 

When they were found out, all members of the Ulma family were killed for their good deeds.

Suggested Novena Start Date: June 29

Pope Saint John Paul II

Before he was Pope, John Paul the II (born Karol Wojtyła) worked to undermine the Nazi’s influence on Poland by working to maintain Polish culture. 

He co-founded the Rhapsodic Theater which staged secret shows in people’s living rooms to avoid arrest and brought truth and beauty to other living through that dark time.

Wojtyla later entered seminary in secret, continuing to write plays like The Jeweler’s Shop which in many ways is the precursor to his later writings of love and marriage like Love and Responsibility and Theology of the Body. 

Suggested Novena Start Date: October 14

How to Grow Closer to the Trinity in Prayer

Three persons, One God. 

The concept of the Trinity is perhaps one of the most profound and mysterious teachings of our faith, yet it is central to our beliefs and to our relationship with God. 

We believe in One God but that God is also three persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They have the same nature, substance, and being, yet they are distinct. 

God invites us to have a relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We were made for unity with His Trinitarian love.

The Catechism of the Catholic church tells us that we are “…called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: ‘If a man loves me’, says the Lord, ‘he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him’” (260). 

We can make room for the Holy Trinity in our minds and hearts through the reception of the sacraments, offering sacrifices, doing works of mercy, and prayer. 

Praying with the Trinity

When we pray to God, we pray to the Trinity. The works of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are inseparably one; however, we can address them individually and for specific needs. 

Novenas are a powerful form of prayer that will help you present your needs to God, and will also help open your heart to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

These novenas in particular invite you to meditate on this great mystery of our faith and will draw you closer into the love of the Trinity. 

Holy Trinity Novena

This novena to the Most Holy Trinity praises each person of the Trinity and specifically asks the Holy Trinity to reign in your heart and soul. 

This novena is most often said before the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which takes place on the first Sunday after Pentecost; however, you can pray this novena at any time. 

Novena to God the Father

In God the Father, we have a loving Creator who gave us life and desires a loving relationship with each of us His children. However, turning to God the Father may be challenging especially if the relationship with your earthly father is wounded. 

This novena helps you to approach God as a Father whose love never fails and who remains eternally faithful to His promises. 

Novena to God’s Love

John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

Because of the infinite love God has for mankind, the Son became incarnate. Out of love, he took on our human flesh and along with it the debt caused by our sin in order to free us of it. 

This novena invites you to meditate on this radical love and opens your heart to receive it more fully. 

More Novenas that specifically meditate on Christ’s life, death,  and Resurrection and assist you in approaching Jesus with your needs can be found here. 

Novena to the Holy Spirit

The Church calls upon the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and to guide us in our journey toward union with God. This novena invites the Holy Spirit into your mind and heart to help form us as Christians and bring God’s grace to our lives.  

The Novena to the Holy Spirit is usually prayed before Pentecost but it can be said anytime. 

The Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit

During the Last Supper, Christ promised his apostles an “Advocate” given by the Father that will remain with them always. 

The third person of the Trinity–the Holy Spirit–is the promised advocate who comes to us though many of us don’t give the Holy Spirit the attention He deserves. As Catholics, we believe that no one can come to Father except through the Son, and no one can know the Son except through the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation pours out special gifts and produces spiritual fruits that guide the faithful to deeper understanding and love of God.  

The Fruits vs. the Gifts of the Spirit

The phrases “Fruit of the Spirit” and “Gifts of the Spirit” are often used interchangeably although they are not the same. They are distinct endowments on us by the Holy Spirit and highlight the generosity of God with those who seek to live in His friendship. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Fruit of the Spirit as “…perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory” (1832). If we live a life of the Spirit–a life in Christ– these virtues will be found.

Church Tradition lists twelve fruits: 

  • Charity
  • Joy
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Kindness
  • Goodness
  • Generosity
  • Gentleness
  • Faithfulness
  • Modesty
  • Self-control
  • Chastity

On the other hand, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to the faithful through Baptism and strengthened through Confirmation. 

They are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, Fear of the Lord.

According to St. Thomas Aquinas, these gifts provide supernatural help to man in order to perfect the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues. They, in turn, further produce the fruits of the Spirit.

The Fruits and Gifts of the Spirit form a “spiritual arsenal” of sorts that enable you to live a profoundly Christian life. 

Come Holy Spirit

Prayer and these endowments of the Holy Spirit go hand-in-hand. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “We pray the way we live, and we live the way we pray.” These graces are freely given by God, and our only response as creatures unworthy for such a gift is prayer; at the same time, prayer will allow these graces to take root in our hearts and flourish. 

If we want to live a life in the Spirit of the Lord and allow Him to bear fruit in our lives, prayer is non-negotiable. 

Turn to the Holy Spirit in your prayer; open your time of prayer with the phrase “Come Holy Spirit.” 

If there is a particular gift or fruit you desire to grow in your life, ask Him to soften your heart and make it fertile to fully receive these graces. 

Prayer was a crucial part of the disciples’ preparation before Pentecost; The very first (unofficial) novena took place in the days leading up to it. So what better way to aid you in your prayer than a novena. 

Pray More Novenas offers three Novenas specifically for an openness to the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. These novenas can be said at any time. 

Holy Spirit Novena

St John Paul II’s Novena for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Novena for Confirmation

Saints who had a Devotion to the Rosary

The Church considers the Rosary one of the most powerful forms of prayer after the Mass. 

Through it, the faithful meditate on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and invite the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary who can lead us closer to her Son. 

Countless saints have spoken on the importance of the Rosary, but a few saints stand out in their devotion to this prayer: 

St. Dominic

Saint Dominic established the Dominican Order because he saw a need for a group of religious people dedicated to teaching in order to combat the heresies rampant at the time. 

Dominic is often credited as being the first propagator of the Rosary after, as legend holds, the Blessed Mother appeared to him with instructions on how to pray it. 

St. Louis de Montfort

French priest, Saint Louis de Monfort has become almost synonymous with devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary. 

His writing on the Rosary and on consecrating oneself to Jesus through Mary has helped to shape the faithful’s understanding of Mary’s role in our lives and in the Church. 

St. Padre Pio

Italian Capuchin priest and mystic, St. Padre Pio is one of the most well-known saints of modern times. He engaged often in spiritual warfare, sometimes even being physically attacked by demons. 

Padre Pio prayed the rosary everyday, which strengthened him against the attacks of the evil one. He even describes the Rosary as a “…weapon against the evils of the world today. All graces given by God pass through the Blessed Mother.”

St. Francis de Sales

St. Francis de Sales was a Bishop of Geneva and is now considered a Doctor of the Church. His book Introduction to the Devout Life is part of the Church’s treasury and a well-read spiritual classic. 

De Sales had a great devotion to Our Lady and helped establish the Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary or the Salesian Sisters. He advised the sisters to say the Rosary “…every day with as much love as possible.”

Pope St. Pius X

Pope St. Pius X had an incredible devotion to Mary and even dedicated an entire encyclical on the Mystery of the Immaculate Conception. He spoke often about the need to pray the Rosary and especially encouraged families to pray it daily. 

Pope Pius X implored the laity: “If you wish peace to reign in your homes, recite the family Rosary” and “If there were one million families praying the Rosary every day, the entire world would be saved.”

St. Teresa of Calcutta

Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity and known for her great love and service for the poor and sick, prayed the Rosary constantly. 

She instructed her sisters: “Never go to the slums without first having recited the Mother’s praises; that is why we have to say the Rosary in the streets and in the dark holes of the slums. Cling to the Rosary as the creeper clings to the tree—for without Our Lady we cannot stand.” 

Pope St. John Paul II

One of the most well-known and beloved popes in Church History, Pope St. John Paul II’s papal motto was “Totus Tuus,” a phrase borrowed from St. Louis de Montfort. This phrase summed up his sincere belief that in giving himself totally to Mary, he could give himself totally to Jesus. 

He spoke about the Rosary often in both his writing and his preaching, and even added the Luminous Mysteries to the meditations of the Rosary. 

Saints Who Experienced the Stigmata

Some saints have been deemed worthy to share in the suffering of Christ in a very real and unique way through the Stigmata.

The Stigmata is a divine gift that gives a person physical marks that parallel the wounds Christ received during Crucifixion.

These holy men and women experienced some of the pain Jesus underwent for our salvation: 

Saint Francis of Assisi

St. Francis of Assisi received the Stigmata on Sept. 17, 1224, a date that is still celebrated as a Franciscan feast. 

At the time, Francis had spent many weeks in prolonged contemplation of Christ’s suffering on the cross. While praying Francis had a vision of a seraph, containing the form of a man crucified, which bestowed on him the five wounds of Christ–becoming the first recorded stigmatic. 

Saint Padre Pio

St. Pio de Pietrelcina had a vision of the crucified Christ from whom he received the stigmata–the only priest to have received such a gift.

During the apparition, Christ lamented the ingratitude of men, particularly consecrated persons, and invited the Capuchin friar to unite himself to the Passion and offer his suffering.

After the vision, Padre Pio had open wounds on his hands, feet, and sides that he attempted to keep hidden. However, in obedience to his superiors, he gave his testimony and allowed for a photo of him with the stigmata to be taken as it seemed the Lord intended Pio to serve as a sign for the whole Church. 

Saint Catherine of Siena

14th Century Dominican tertiary and Doctor of the Church Saint Catherine of Siena first received visible wounds on her after receiving Communion. 

After receiving the Eucharist, Catherine went into her usual ecstasy and had a vision of Christ Crucified coming toward her in a great light. Her body rose to meet him and the five rays of blood coming from His wounds toward her hands, feet, and heart. 

Catherine asked for the Lord to hide her stigmata from others and He granted her request–allowing her alone to see and feel the wounds. In this way did she suffer with Christ interiorly and intimately until her death. 

Saint Rita of Cascia

St.Rita of Cascia was a wife and mother who joined the Augustinians after the deaths of her husband and sons. 

St. Rita spent many hours meditating on the Passion and prayed that God would allow her to participate in the sufferings of the Cross. She received a partial stigmata–a wound on her head caused by a Thorn from the Crown that pierced Christ’s head.

Unlike other stigmatics, who’s wounds seemed to exude a heavenly fragrance, the wounds of Saint Rita had a rotten smell, causing people to stay away from her. 

Saint Gemma Galgani

Italian saint Gemma Galgani received a vision of the Blessed Mother and Jesus with his open wounds on the vigil of Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. 

Mary wrapped Gemma in her mantle and supported her as fire came forth from the wounds of Christ and touched her.

Gemma woke from the vision with open wounds matching Christ’s on her hand, feet, and heart. She kept the wounds covered. 

The stigmata appeared on Gemma every Thursday and disappeared at 3:00 on Friday afternoon until she died. After her death, faint marks of the wounds she suffered remained. 

St. Margaret of Cortona

Italian Penitent and Lay Franciscan St. Margaret of Cortona lived a life of penance and devotion after turning from a life of sin. She dedicated herself to serving the poor and sick, often going without food or clothing so she could give to the poor. 

Margaret also had many mystical experiences that helped her understand God’s love and the importance of compassion, including the wounds of Christ on her hands, feet, and side. 

About the St. Michael the Archangel prayer

St. Michael the Archangel defend us in battle…

Saint Michael, although venerated as a saint, isn’t really a saint; he is an angel. Not only that, but he is honored as the leader of the heavenly hosts and given the title of “Archangel” alongside Sts. Gabriel and Raphael. 

The little we know of St. Michael comes from Scriptures, where he is mentioned by name four times: twice in the book of Daniel where he is described as a “great prince” and God’s helper who will stand for the children of God; once in the epistle of St. Jude which alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses, and once in the Book of Revelation which speaks of his casting the dragon out of heaven. 

There are also a few passages which many scholars believe reference St. Michael but do not use his name—for example, in the Book of Joshua when a sword-wielding angel appears to Joshua before the fall of Jericho identifying himself as commander of the army of the Lord.

From these passages, Christian tradition assigns four roles to St. Michael: 

  1. He fights against Satan
  2. He rescues faithful souls from the power of the enemy, particularly at the hour of their death
  3. He is the champion of God’s people and the patron of the Church
  4. He is present at every deathbed to escorts the souls to the judgment

Although the devotion to St. Michael is ancient, the prayer of St. Michael is actually fairly new in Church history. Pope Leo XIII wrote the prayer after having a mystical experience during mass and had it included in the 1886 “Prayers After Mass,” requiring it to be prayed after all Low Masses in the Latin rite. 

The exact details of the vision aren’t known for certain and a few versions of the event have circulated during its retelling. Some say he collapsed, while others said he stood looking fearful at an unseen terror.

Some stories say that he overheard a conversation between God and Satan, in which Satan boasted that he could destroy the Church in 75-100 years and God gave him permission to try. 

The version with the most evidence is written about in Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael by Kevin Symonds says that the Pope saw a vision of “…the ages to come, the seductive powers and ravings of the devils against the Church in every land. But St. Michael appeared in the moment of greatest distress and cast Satan and his cohorts back into the abyss of hell.”

Whatever the true story behind the prayer is, the heart of it remains the same: God granted St. Michael the power to protect the Church from the forces that seek to destroy her, and that we should look to him as our protector. 

Pray the novena to Saint Michael the Archangel and ask for his intercession and protection for both your soul and for the whole Church. Although St. Michael’s feast day is celebrated on September 29 (a feast also known as Michaelmas), you can pray this novena at any time. 

The Our Lady of Lourdes Novena, 2024

The next novena we’ll pray together is to Our Lady of Lourdes!

The devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes is most well-known for the miraculous cures and healing of illness & disease. 

So one of the intentions we will pray for throughout this novena is for healing. In one way or another, we are all in need of it.

You can share your prayer intentions with us all below — we’re praying for you!

Answered Prayers from the St. Peregrine Novena, 2024

If you’ve had any of your prayers answered during this novena, please share those with us all below.

We’re praying for you! May God bless you, heal you, comfort and guide you!

The St. Peregrine Novena, 2024

The next novena we’ll pray together is the St. Peregrine Novena!

St. Peregrine is the patron saint of cancer patients. He had a cancerous ulcer on his leg which was miraculously cured when it was thought to be beyond saving. 

We will pray this novena for all cancer patients, for all those suffering from life-threatening and chronic illnesses, for their families & friends, as well as for physicians and scientists working to discover a cure and to bring relief.

You can share your prayer intentions below. We’re praying for you!

God bless you!