What is Lent? Lent is the annual preparation for the celebration of Easter, calling us to reform our lives and to open our hearts to the spiritual blessings that God has promised to bestow on us.
When is Lent? Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. Because Lent is a penitential season which includes fasting, Sundays are not included in the 40 days, since they are feast days in the Church.
Who needs Lent? We all do! The practices, traditions, and rituals of Lent are all meant to turn our lives back towards God. God wants nothing more for each of us than to be happy – truly happy, the kind of happiness that comes from becoming the person He created us to be. Lent is our yearly opportunity to take a close look at how we are living our lives and to make some real changes to get back on the path of becoming that person. Lent is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider so that when we get to the celebration of Easter we are better able to receive the overflowing of God’s graces.
What are the practices of Lent? The basic practices of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, all rooted in Jesus’ teaching and example about how to be His disciple.
- Prayer – deepens our relationship with God and is nothing more than dialogue with Him. Spending more time in prayer can be as simple as attending daily Mass, attending Adoration, going to Stations of the Cross on Fridays or daily reading of scripture or a few extra minutes of silent prayer and reflection each day.
- Fasting – expresses our desire to find happiness in God rather than in the satisfaction of our physical needs. While many people give up particular foods during Lent, fasting from behaviors or habits that are spiritually unhealthy can also help open our hearts to God. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics from age 18-59 and Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.
- Almsgiving – Lent gives us the opportunity to cultivate a spirit of generosity. It is our response to the teachings of Jesus that encourages us to reach out to people in need with goods to the poor, donating money and performing acts of charity.