Ash Wednesday

Lent Day 1: Henri Nouwen

Looking for a daily devotion for Lent? Every day (minus Sundays), U.S. Catholic will bring you words of wisdom and questions for reflection from different spiritual writers.

1. Henri J. M. Nouwen: An Ash Wednesday prayer
How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?

Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen. (A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

Reflection questions

1. What are you “killing” in yourself this Lenten season?

2. How will your sacrifice help you understand Christ’s more fully?

3. Can you understand the true significance of Easter without living through Lent and Christ’s death?

Nouwen (1932–1996) was a Dutch priest, writer, lecturer, spiritual guide, and leader at the L’Arche Daybreak Community for people with mental and physical disabilities.

Find spiritual advice for Lent from other guides here.