If you are reading this, you’re not alone. A lot of folks have trouble explaining or understanding what Lent is. Is why I was prompted to pull my Catholic resources together and share a quick guide.
I get a lot of questions about Lent from my Protestant and Catholic friends. There is so much confusion.
What surprises most people to learn is that the Lenten Season is not exclusive to Catholics. It’s a religious observance that touches most Christians in some shape or form.
So in keeping a broad audience in mind, I decided to put together a user-friendly guide helpful to anyone and everyone. I’ll explain what the Lenten season is and how to best prepare for this time of reconciliation.
Introduction to Lent
The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday, right before Easter Sunday. It’s marked by the color purple symbolizing mourning, pain, and suffering. All themes associated with Christ’s passion.
During this journey, we turn away from sin and focus on self-restraint.
Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from lethargy.Pope Francis
It’s a time of abstinence – both physical and non. 40 days of penance mirroring the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his crucifixion and death.
We are reminded of God’s ultimate sacrifice. And in doing this, we can share in Christ’s suffering and call to mind God’s mercy, His love.
Maximizing the Lenten Season
There are essentially four things we are called to do during this season. Four easy ways to deny ourselves and focus on Christian service.
- Alms-giving: generosity to the less fortunate in terms of goods, service, donations. Try donating an hour a week to a local charity.
- Abstinence: we abstain from eating meat, more traditionally done on Fridays. What a great opportunity to try the pescatarian life for a few weeks.
- Fasting: consume less. We fast to seek out His nourishment. But, don’t get caught up in semantics. Make this work for you. For example, by-passing Starbucks or watching one less day of TV for 40 days are examples of fasting.
- Confession: an important part of the penitential experience. We sin, we are sorry and we ask for forgiveness. Happy ending: everyone knows, God loves his sinners.
Important Dates to Remember
There are four very important and holy dates to recall during the Lenten Season. None of which are Holy Days of Obligation, by the way.
Nonetheless, these days represent a great opportunity for us to reflect on our journey of faith and get back on the right track with God.
- Ash Wednesday – marks the beginning of Lent. We are reminded of our own mortality. Fun fact: the blessed ashes used to mark a cross on our foreheads are made from the palms of previous year’s Palm Sunday.
- Sacred Triduum – three consecutive days recalling Christ’s passion.
- 1. Holy Thursday – We commemorate “The Last Supper” and thereby celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
- 2. Good Friday – Christ is crucified at Calvary and dies at 3PM.
- 3. Holy Saturday – Lent ends. Easter vigil begins at sundown.
And then we arrive at Easter Sunday! Lent has ended and so has our mourning and suffering. We joyfully celebrate His resurrection. Jesus has conquered sin and death.
Our salvation has been purchased!
So, what are you giving up for Lent this year? Get creative and share your thoughts below – – I may just borrow one or two 🙂