Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We, as Catholics, are called to walk through the desert with Christ for 40 days and 40 nights. The season of Lent is one of the holiest times of the year as we experience the sorrow of the crucifixion on Good Friday, and then rejoice in the Risen Lord on Easter Sunday.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is February 22 this year. This Lent, strive to grow in your faith and deepen your relationship with Christ. Here are several Lenten programs that can help guide you through your journey.
The Hallow App is offering a 40-day prayer challenge during Lent. The #Pray40 Challenge will focus Christ’s sacrifices and temptations in the desert. Led by Jonathan Roumie, Jim Caviezel, Father Mike Schmitz, Immaculee Ilibagiza and Mark Wahlberg, each week will offer meditations, prayers, and reflections centered on imitating Christ and on prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Ascension Press’ Lenten program focuses on Christ’s passion. Filmed in the Holy Land, “No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion” takes you through the last moments of Christ’s life. You will walk side-by-side with Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to Mount Calvary. Edward Sri guides you through as you gain a deeper understanding of God’s unconditional love for humanity.
Join Good Catholic, a digital content platform, in their online series “A Holy Lent.” Through videos, prompts, prayers, examens, written reflections, practical actions items, Father Jeffrey Kirby leads the faithful from Ash Wednesday to the Easter Vigil with the hope to fill you with all the graces Lent has to offer.
Join Abiding Together this Lent as they journey through “Restore: A Guided Lent Journal for Prayer and Meditation” by Sister Miriam James Heidland. This guided journal for prayer and meditation will help you encounter God’s mercy and healing. There are four phases of healing that focus on the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and sacrifices.
Pray with God’s Word by receiving daily readings directly to your email each morning. Sign up for this subscription from the USCCB. You can also sign up for Bishop Robert Barron’s free daily Lenten Gospel reflections sent directly to your inbox.
Abstinence and Fasting
Abstinence is the act of “doing without” or avoiding something. For example, someone may abstain from chocolate or alcohol by not consuming them. Particular days of abstinence during Lent are Fridays, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As canon law states, Catholics over the age of 14 are expected to abstain from the eating of meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays throughout the Lenten Season (Canon 1250 -1253).
During Lent, Catholics are also encouraged to undertake some sort of personal penance or abstinence. Examples include giving up sweets, a favorite TV show, online gaming or social media. Giving up these things isn’t some sort of endurance test, but these acts are done to draw the faithful closer to Christ.
For example, a person may give up his favorite TV show, but if he simply turns the television to another channel, the Lenten penance really does not mean as much. Instead, the person should consider devoting the spare time to prayer or perhaps his family.
As always, when considering acts of penance that are stricter than the norm, it is important that the Catholic would speak with a priest or spiritual director. Any act of penance that would seriously hinder one’s health or the health of others would be contrary to the will of God.
Fasting is the act of doing with less. In the Catholic Church, those ages 18-59 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (Canon 97). On such days, those fasting may eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength. However, together, the smaller meals should not equal a full meal. Eating between meals is not encouraged, but liquids are allowed.
It is important to understand that the Church excuses certain people from these obligations. Examples include those who are frail, pregnant or manual laborers. The Church understands that certain people are not able to commit to the Lenten fast.
The time of Lent, through fasting and abstaining, may be an important reminder of what it means to suffer. This small suffering should not be met with misery but with great joy as we better understand the incredible sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for humanity.
(Photo from Shutterstock, via CNA.)
By Francesca Pollio Fenton, Catholic News Agency