As a Dominican Friar, Lent is a special time. I’ve looked forward to it more every year as a Dominican; here are a few reasons why.
#1. Opportunity in Prayer
When I think about common Lenten resolution for many Catholics, attending mass more frequently or building in more time for prayer, I realize how blessed we friars are to have so much prayer built into our schedule, and to have a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament in our house. There’s no magic pill that Dominicans take to make us more inclined to prayer: it takes intention and effort for us, just like it would with anyone else. That said, the structure of our life does make more intense Lenten prayer more doable.
#2. Clear Spiritual Purpose
First things first: Lent is for everyone. Every Christian who observes Lent is called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Let’s make sure we grasp that essential truth.
Having said that, the life of a friar is geared in a special way to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the integral parts of Lent – especially prayer and penitential practice – are also integral parts of the Dominican life (See more here and here). All parts of a Dominican friar’s life are supposed to facilitate one’s becoming a more effective preacher. So when there’s a season specially dedicated to integral parts of our life, it makes sense that a friar’s mission during this season is clear: find ways to grow in virtuous prayer and in penitential practice. We Dominicans know what we are about during Lent.
#3. Intentional Growth Culture
One last neat thing about Lent in a Dominican community is that brothers’ penances tend to be more geared toward sustainable lifestyle changes than temporary sacrifices. I’ve personally noticed that each year’s Lenten season tends to build on the previous year: that gives a sense of direction. I’ve heard Bishop Robert Barron compare Lent to baseball’s spring training; I like that analogy. I’d also compare it to any intense offseason conditioning program: Lent is the time to build up the spiritual life for the year ahead, and it’s easier to sustain that in a supportive community.