an introduction to lent
The days between Ash Wednesday and Easter are conventionally referred to as the season of Lent. For us Catholics, this is a very important time of year. These 40 days invite us to seek conversion—a change of heart—and repentance—a turning away from sin and seeking a closer relationship with God. For many people, Lent is a time to give up some pleasure or do some extra act of charity or personal discipline. This reminds us not to be ruled by the desires of our physical senses, living according to the flesh, but to master our fleshly desires and live according to the Spirit (see Rom 8:5 and Gal 5:13, 16-17). This sacrifice allows Christ to live more fully in and through us. The austerity of disciplining our flesh is reflected in our liturgical celebrations by somber purple vestments and decorations and by not proclaiming the Alleluia before the Gospel. This solemn tone heightens our anticipation as we look forward to the bright, joyous celebration of Easter. The traditional disciplines of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Increased attention to prayer draws us closer to God. Fasting is a reminder that our physical satisfaction isn’t our highest value, and almsgiving is the act of sacrificing something of ourselves for the good of others. Ask yourself if you could give something up for Lent that would serve to remind you of the disciplines of this season. As I often do, I’m giving up elevators this Lent. It’s a reminder to myself that left to my own devices, I can become lazy and complacent. My soul knows I’d be better off taking the stairs.
Fr. Larry Rice, CSP, serves as director of the University Catholic Center at the University of Texas–Austin.
Lent 2017: Give up, Take up, Lift up!
Daily Inspiration for your Lenten Journey, March 1 – April 15
During Lent, take inspiration from the words of St. Paul (2 Cor 8:9), and contemplate his invitation to live a life of evangelical poverty. Embrace the Lord's call to being the blessed poor by "giving up" material things, including food, superfluous to your basic needs; "taking up" charitable habits directed to helping and caring for others; and "lifting up" those in need through giving alms, through praying for them, and by participating in devotional practices.
Fortify your Lenten journey with the words of the church fathers and Pope Francis featured on this calendar, and contemplate the suggestions for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Print the calendar in English or Spanish and post it in a prominent place to remind you of your commitment to give up, take up, and lift up, during this Lent.
Lectio Divina, a form of meditation that dates back to early monastic communities, involves focused reading of Scripture (“lectio”), meditation on the Word of God (“meditatio”), contemplation of the Word and its meaning in one's life (“contemplatio”), and ends with prayer (“oratio”).
Deepen your understanding of Sunday’s Gospel with this Lectio Divina guide.
Questions And Answers About Lent And Lenten Practices
Q. Why do we say that there are forty days of Lent? When you count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, there are 46.
A. It might be more accurate to say that there is the "forty day fast within Lent." Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days. The forty day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the Time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.
Q. So does that mean that when we give something up for Lent, such as candy, we can have it on Sundays?
A. Apart from the prescribed days of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of abstinence every Friday of Lent, Catholics have traditionally chosen additional penitential practices for the whole Time of Lent. These practices are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.
Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I'm not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?
A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs --- all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.
Q. I've noticed that restaurants and grocery stores advertise specials on expensive types of fish and seafood on Fridays during Lent. Some of my Catholic friends take advantage of these deals, but somehow I don't feel right treating myself to the lobster special on Fridays during Lent.
A. While fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the point. Abstaining from meat and other indulgences during Lent is a penitential practice. On the Fridays of Lent, we remember the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and unite ourselves with that sacrifice through abstinence and prayer.
Q. I understand that Catholics ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, but what exactly are the rules for these fasts?
A. Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal. Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal. Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals.
Q. Are there exemptions other than for age from the requirement to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?
A. Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women. In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.
Catholic Apps for Your Lenten journey
date. Known as the No. 1 Catholic app, it offers a wide variety of resources, from the daily readings to Vatican documents. Great resources for Lent include the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours and a daily examination of conscience.
Magnificat Lenten Companion. Presented in a day-by-day format, the Lenten Companion App contains: daily Mass prayers and Scripture readings; Prayer - a cycle of prayers for morning, evening, and night inspired by the Liturgy of the Hours; Meditation - spiritual reflections for each day of Lent.
CRS Rice Bowl. This app from Catholic Relief Services is a great way to tap into almsgiving during Lent. You can set specific goals and track your progress. It also offers reflections, meatless recipes and personal stories.
Reimagining the Examen offers a unique prayer experience that’s tailored to your needs and mood. Each Examen, based on St. Ignatius’s 500-year-old prayer, guides you through a reflection on your day, helping you invite God into the nitty-gritty.
Sacred Space is inspired by the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a sixteenth-century Basque, whose insights into God's working with the human heart have been of great assistance to countless people over the centuries and are found more helpful than ever today.
Catholic Bible Study offers a free Electronic RSV-2CE Bible • Ignatius Catholic Study Bible • Truth and Life Dramatized Audio New Testament • Over 100 Lighthouse Catholic Media Talks for purchase • free Audio Bible Commentary from Dr. Scott Hahn • And more!
Angelus Pro helps you to pray the Angelus prayer in both your language and in Latin. Furthermore, the application notifies you at 12 PM to remind you when to pray the Angelus.
The Pope App gives you the latest news and information on the Pope as produced by the Vatican’s own media services. It also allows you to follow live streaming of papal events, , view papal photos, videos, tweets, full texts of homilies and speeches and more!
3-minute Retreat App guides you on a new bite-sized retreat filled with Scripture passages, soothing music, and reflection questions that you can pray at your own pace. Features include new retreats for every day of the year, inspirational photography and music.
Mea Culpa is meant to be an examination of conscience app for Catholics who want to make a sincere confession, and recollect as much as possible. Mea Culpa categorizes your sins into 3 Tabs, venial sins, mortal sins and committed sins
Holy Rosary App is designed for simply praying along with the Rosary. The appropriate mystery is loaded for that particular day or you can manually choose which mysteries you would like to pray along with by tapping the image on the screen and choosing from the menu.