Lent is about more than just fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Lent is a time of extraordinary grace. When we fast and do penance, we are meant to grow in virtue, in preparation of the coming Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord. This is so we can receive more grace when the Great Feast is celebrated, which in turn causes us to grow in holiness, so that we can be more like Jesus and have more room for him in our souls.
Grace is available all year round but it is intensified during Lent. It is the time to give up something that really matters, like a vice, which gets in the way of our holiness. This could be impatience, anger, or something else.
We overcome a vice through praying, through recalling our past failures and what caused them, then giving them all up to God. Think of how we should have acted in that situation and ask for the grace to do better.
Pray for the virtue we are trying to grow in and choose penances to help us grow in that virtue. For example, for the virtue of patience, choose slower traffic lanes, longer queues, etc. to cultivate tolerance for whatever evil is bothering us and wait for it to pass with a steady mind. Tell ourselves it is so we can grow in patience. That way, when God gives us temptations to disturb our patience, we will be able to remain calm.
For the vice of unjust or immoderate anger, the countering virtue is meekness. This is a part of the virtue of temperance: the moderation of desire for greater pleasures for the preservation of self and species. Food and drink form part of these desires and are something that can be moderated. Penance here involves mortifying ourselves through food and drink, by not eating and drinking what we want, whenever we want. Sacrificing food and drink allows us to grow in temperance, and therefore in meekness. Tell ourselves we are doing it for the virtue of temperance to conquer anger.
Temperance helps us to govern other temptations, such as gluttony. For this vice, regularly give up something small and different each month of the year, perhaps drink only water one month, give up chocolate instead the next month, etc. The big grace comes from regular fasting throughout the year. Saint John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, said that "The Devil hates nothing more than fasting", which is a splendid reason to do it. The Church defines fasting as "two small meals that don't make a regular meal, plus a regular meal". Even harder, eat just what we need to get from one meal to another, without making ourselves ill or leading to other sins, but make real sacrifices. Tell ourselves we are doing it for the virtue of temperance to conquer gluttony.
The goal is to build virtue over time. The repetition of penances builds good, strong habits and this helps us resist anything we may face in times of temptation.
For the complete Sensis Fidelium homily on Growing in Virtue by Small, Sustained Mortifications, click here to watch the YouTube video.