On Feb, 5 2024
Lent is upon us!
The new year begins, and before you know it, Catholics must start preparing for the next major liturgical season—Lent.
Lent is a 40-day period before Easter where Catholics focus on self-reflection and preparation. It begins with Ash Wednesday, marked by receiving ashes on the forehead. During Lent, Catholics often practice fasting, prayer, and almsgiving—giving up certain indulgences, dedicating more time to prayer, engaging in acts of charity, etc. This season is a time for repentance, seeking forgiveness, and spiritual renewal. It culminates in the celebration of Easter, symbolizing the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
A common piece of advice you'll hear when making Lenten resolutions is to keep it SIMPLE. This doesn't mean it won't be sacrificial or fruitful—quite the opposite. Doing one thing well is more fruitful than doing ten things halfway.
Here is a simple approach to each major Lenten pillar — Prayer, Fasting & Abstinence, and Almsgiving.
How to Pray During Lent
As a cornerstone of Lent, prayer is the most direct and essential way to grow in relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. In the process, prayer enables you to be transformed during this solemn and holy season.
Here are a few simple ways to increase prayer during Lent:
- Do a nightly examination of conscience
- Spend 15 (minimum) to 30 minutes in mental prayer
- Pray the rosary every day, meditating on the sorrowful mysteries
If prayer is already a consistent habit in your daily life, try adding something extra, such as attending daily Mass or praying an extra rosary or chaplet every day.
How to Fast & Abstain During Lent
By voluntarily abstaining from certain foods, habits, or indulgences, Catholics can unite themselves with the sufferings of Christ in a profound way. Fasting becomes a tangible expression of repentance and a means to detach from worldly distractions, allowing individuals to focus on the profound significance of the season.
Through this practice, Catholics aim to cultivate a heightened awareness of their dependence on God, fostering a deeper connection with their faith and a genuine sense of spiritual purification during the sacred journey of Lent.
Need some ideas on how to fast during Lent?
The Church gives us guidelines for abstaining and fasting during Lent—note that these are the bare minimums, so if you can do more, do more:
- Ash Wednesday (fasting and abstinence)
- All Fridays during Lent (fasting and abstinence)
- Good Friday (fasting and abstinence)
- Additionally, abstain from something not necessarily food-related that takes up time and space in your day, such as entertainment, social media, making unnecessary purchases, etc.
- Make a list of things that take up time and space in your day and choose one to fast from, and instead, use that time to focus on growing in faith.
- For example, give up listening to music in the car or watching TV at night and replace it with a rosary walk or reading scripture.
How to Give Alms During Lent
Almsgiving is defined as "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God" (CCC 2462). It includes the obvious part of tithing but is also much more than that! The root of the word "alms" in Latin and Greek means mercy and pity.
This pillar should be anything that leads us to share the mercy and love of God with others in a demonstrative way:
- Write a list of 40 names, and each day, reach out to one person to encourage, perform an act of service, pray a rosary, etc.
- Ask God how He wants to love through you this Lenten season.
- Give more in your monthly tithe to your Church
- Visit the elderly or a neighbor who doesn't get visitors
- Cook and deliver a meal for a family who just had a baby
- Give away some of your gently used clothes, books, or blankets
Don't Be Discouraged!
Lent is a season meant to deepen our relationship with Christ through our own repentance from sin, growth in virtue, and union with His sufferings on the Cross. This might sound intimidating if you've never accounted for every pillar above during Lent.
Here's a tip: don't try to do everything at once. It's like that saying, "quality over quantity." Instead of spreading yourself too thin, pick just one or two things to focus on—whether it's a specific prayer routine, giving up a favorite snack, or helping others meaningfully.
By keeping it simple, you can dive deeper into those chosen areas and make your Lenten season more meaningful and fulfilling.
It's all about having a quality Lent, not trying to be a spiritual superhero!