Lent? What is Lent? (February 22 & 23)
What Is Lent? Lent is the penitential season of approximately 40 days set aside by the Church so that we can prepare individually and together as a parish for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. During this holy season, deeply connected to the Mystery of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, we prepare for Easter by by works of penance, that is, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Ash Wednesday is the day that calls us to begin, to “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). For the next forty days, we are invited to willingly submit to fasting and self-denial in imitation of Our Lord’s forty-day fast in the desert. It is in these dark and still nights, these desert-times, that the soul experiences its greatest growth. We walk together with a hope sustained by the knowledge of Christ’s Easter victory over sin and death.
His victory is our renewal, our “spring” — which is the meaning of the Anglo-Saxon word, “lengten” or Lent. In this penitential season we have the opportunity to make an annual spiritual “tune-up”, a 40-day retreat with Our Lord. Take up your cross and follow Jesus, and you will enter eternal life. If you die with Him, you will also live with Him, and if you share His suffering, you will also share His glory.
A Personal Program
It should not be enough to slide through Lent by just observing the fast and abstinence laws. We should all undertake a Lenten program, an inward cleansing and purification, for oneself and the family. The program needs to be planned and organized. Ask the question: What shall I and my family do this year for Lent? Goals and activities should be realistic and reasonable.
The principal works of Lent can be divided into three categories:
Fasting and Mortification
We must fulfill the minimum requirements of the Church for fasting and abstinence. But there are other forms of abstaining and fasting. We must remember that when we do "give up" something, it should be completely, not saved for later. The money we save from not buying a cup of coffee should be given as a donation to charity. The time we don't watch TV should be spent doing spiritual reading, or family time. Below are some examples of other forms of fasting or abstaining:
Refrain from complaining, gossiping, grumbling or losing one's temper.
Abstain from favorite drinks, desserts or foods.
Eat less at meals, or eat fewer snacks between meals;
Fast extra days in Lent besides Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Eat without complaining.
Make simple meals, that are less appealing to the sense of taste.
Ideally, the members of the family may participate in daily Mass. If this is not possible, the readings from the Mass should be read and meditated upon daily. This could be done as a family, perhaps at the dinner meal. The Mass is the prayer of the Church, and the highest form of prayer. It also unites us with the whole Church in public prayer.
A strong emphasis should be made in receiving the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance frequently. For an examination of conscience and for help in receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation see An Examination of Conscience and An Examination of Conscience for Laymen.
Another prayer of the Church is the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours. Praying the Divine Office unites our prayers with the Liturgy of the universal Church.
The Stations of the Cross are special during Lent, because they meditate on the Passion of Christ. Usually the Stations are offered at the parish church on Fridays in Lent. They can also be prayed together as a family.
Almsgiving is tied closely with fasting. Whatever we give up, the money we save should go to the needy. It should be given away to the missions, the Church, or a worthy charity. In a family with small children it helps to make this a visual practice by, for example, having a jar or box in the center of the table as a reminder and measure of progress. Operation Rice Bowl is a great way to give alms at home.
It is also considered "almsgiving" to give one's time and goods to those who are in need, i.e., donating time for a soup kitchen, giving clothes to charity, visiting the shut-ins, driving those without transportation and other similar practices.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession)
As sinners, we recognize both our human limitations and failures and also God’s limitless love for us. God loves and forgives us, and the sacrament of reconciliation makes this gift of forgiveness a reality in the life of the sinner. We are restored to a proper relationship with God. Through the cleansing of our sins and guilt, we are once again made whole and holy.
Confessions are heard every Wednesday from 7-8 pm at Blessed Sacrament, Saturday at 3pm both at Blessed Sacrament and St. Mary Churches.
Lent: a time to learn about the rich treasures of our Catholic Faith
During Lent (and throughout the year) we need spiritual enlightenment. Word on Fire Engage is the way we can accomplish this! Watch for an email or text message about a special online course for the Season of Lent coming directly to your laptop, tablet, iPhone or Android device.