This year something unique happens in our calendar: Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday.  Although many people are bemoaning the fact that this day of celebration is on a day for fasting and abstinence in our Catholic church (Ash Wednesday trumps Valentine’s Day), I find that it is very fitting that these two holidays come crashing together this year.  For me, Ash Wednesday is a launching pad for making new spiritual steps towards becoming a better Catholic and Valentine’s Day is a celebration of all those I love.    I believe that the Holy Spirit wants to encourage us to put these two special days together and use this Lent to focus on the love and kindness towards those important people who are in our lives.  (notice LENT is even part of the word Valentine!!!)

 This Lent I am working on ways that I can serve the people the Lord has placed in my life.  

Below are five suggestions Michele (From Divine Mercy for Moms) and I have to improve your relationships during the next 40 days.

Pray for Your Friends and Loved Ones

Go beyond just saying “Happy Valentines Day” to your loved ones.  Thank God for these relationships and allow the Lord to use you to pray for them.  One simple idea is to mark down a name of a friend or family member on each day of your calendar as a way to remind you to offer up unique prayers of petition and thanksgiving for the people the Lord has placed in your life. It can be a simple prayer in the morning, offering your Chaplet of Divine Mercy or even saying a Rosary for a friend.   Later in the day be sure to tell that friend or loved one that you are praying for them today. 

“In this world, two things are essential: life and friendship. Both should be highly prized, and we must not undervalue them. Life and friendship are nature’s gifts. [Sermon Denis 16,1]- St. Augustine

 Do A Work Of Mercy for Family and Friends – The most significant acts of kindness are not done with your words, but rather with deeds of love! Focus on what acts of service and compassion you can perform during Lent.   Pack your spouse’s lunch for them without being asked or drop off a meal to a friend who is going through a difficult time. When we give of ourselves and do not look for something in return, we are better able to love the people in our life. Don’t be intimidated by doing service for others; no act is too small to be done in love for others. Recently, a friend told me that she is going to wake the same time as her spouse to have breakfast together while the children are still asleep, so they can spend more time together.  What a beautiful idea!

 Live the Virtues – In our most recent book, Michele and I focus each chapter with a virtue as a critical concept for developing fabulous relationships.  The attributes we discuss are Faith, Hope, Love, Prudence, Generosity, Loyalty, Gratitude, and Prayerfulness.  Take time this Lent to evaluate the kind of behaviors you are exhibiting every day and attempt to grow in virtue.   By being more virtuous, your relationships will be improved. Consider saying “thank you” to your spouse for all that he or she has done for you, being generous to your children and more loving to your mother-in-law.   On the other hand, the opposite of virtue is vice -the bad habits that we want to focus on removing during this Lenten season. Think of some of the less than virtuous things you do (like nag your spouse, gossip about your friends) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in virtue this Lent. 

 St. Augustine shares with us that everything authentically good in friendships, everything that is true, comes from God but true Christian friendship, or spiritual friendship, offers us the ability to share in the inner life of the Trinity! 

 Celebrate Friendship Friday- Spend quality time with the people you care about this Lent, especially on Friday.  Pick up the phone and call your friends, write letters of support and reach out to allow your friendship to be a beacon of hope in someone else’ life. 

 St. Francis de Sales wrote: “Friends are for our growth in health, happiness, and holiness on this earth in order to better prepare us to share together the gift of eternal life in heaven.”

   Fast For Friends – Remember to offer your Lenten Fast up for those who need your prayers! Your prayers are strengthened with fasting, Instead of just giving up chocolate for its own sake, offer this small sacrifice for the good of another.   You can fast for your marriage or another relationship in your life to bring about positive change.  With prayer and fasting, all things are possible!

May your faith grow during this holy season!