Lenten Season 101


Crucifixion by Ann Chapin

Lent is the time of spiritual preparation prior to the Easter season, just as Advent is for Christmas.

“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters.

In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal:

these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.”

-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

 

Here’s a rundown of everything major you need to know about the Lenten season, the 40 days of preparation before the greatest of all Christian feasts, Easter.

 

 

Overview:

– Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (this year March 5, 2014) and finishes on Holy Saturday (this year April 19, 2014) with the start of Easter Vigil.

– The Three Pillars of Lent:

1. Prayer

2. Fasting

3. Almsgiving

 

Pope Francis’ Lenten theme for 2014:

“He became poor so, that by His poverty you might become rich.”

 

“May this Lenten season find the whole Church ready to bear witness to all those who live in material, moral and spiritual destitution the Gospel message of the merciful love of God our Father, who is ready to embrace everyone in Christ. We can so this to the extent that we imitate Christ who became poor and enriched us by his poverty. Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.

May the Holy Spirit, through whom we are ‘as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything’ (2 Cor 6:10), sustain us in our resolutions and increase our concern and responsibility for human destitution, so that we can become merciful and act with mercy. In expressing this hope, I likewise pray that each individual member of the faithful and every Church community will undertake a fruitful Lenten journey.” -Pope Francis

Definitions:

 

Fast:  Eating less food than normal (does not necessarily mean no food).

  • What you can eat: One normal, full-sized meal, and two smaller meals which if combined would not exceed one full meal.
  • Why: “Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.” –Pope Benedict XVI

 

Abstinence: Do not eat meat.

  • What you can eat: fish
  • Why: “Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church.” –USCCB

 

Almsgiving:  Material generosity to the less fortunate.

  • What you can give: money, goods, acts of charity
  • Why: Almsgiving “represents a specific way to assist those in need and, at the same time, an exercise in self-denial to free us from attachment to worldly goods . . .  Almsgiving helps us to overcome this constant temptation, teaching us to respond to our neighbor’s needs and to share with others whatever we possess through divine goodness.”  –Pope BenedictXVI

 

Important days during Lent:

 

Ash Wednesday: Marks the start of Lent & the time for penance. Obligatory day of fasting (ages 18 to 59) & Abstinence (ages 14 & over).

Fridays of Lent:  Obligatory Abstinence  (ages 14 & over). All Fridays (even outside of Lent) are days of penance.

Holy Thursday: Commemorates the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

Good Friday: The anniversary of the Crucifixion of Christ (no Mass). Obligatory day of fasting (ages 18 to 59) & Abstinence (ages 14 & over).

Holy Saturday:  Christ is in the grave conquering death. Final day of Lent & of fasting (no daily Mass, Easter Vigil at sundown).

Sacred Triduum: The period of 3 days (Holy Thursday + Good Friday + Holy Saturday) during which we remember Christ’s Passion, ending at the Easter Vigil (Saturday evening).

Easter Sunday:  Lent is over and joy begins, the day of Christ’s resurrection, the principle Christian feast of the entire liturgical year. This is the celebration of Christ’s victory over sin and death merited for us by his passion, death, and resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday.

 

Important Duties:

 

Fasting & Abstinence:  See above.

Confession: Catholics are obligated to fulfill their Easter Duty by receiving Holy Communion at least once during the Easter season (from Easter Sunday to Pentecost), therefore the Sacrament of Penance for any mortal sins is required prior to this, and is strongly recommended as a Lenten penitential practice for any venial sins prior to the Easter feast.

 

Best Practices:

  • The entire season of Lent should be a penitential season. The liturgical color for Lent is purple (just like Advent) to show that it is a special time of penance. Self-imposed fasting at other times outside of  the obligations to do so on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, special Lenten devotions and spiritual reading, Stations of the Cross, etc. all enhance the penitential and spiritual aspect of Lent.
  • Make the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) an important part of your Lenten penitential practice. Many parishes have special times for confession during Lent.
  • Attend Mass on Ash Wednesday. While it is not a Holy Day of Obligation, all are encouraged to attend.
  • Attend Mass on Holy Thursday to commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, called the “Mass of the Lord’s Supper.”
  • At 3 o’clock on Good Friday, pause and make a special effort to keep this hour sacred, as the hour of Christ’s death on the cross, after which redemption for mankind was completed. Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet is ideal or check your parish for a 3 o’clock service.
  • Participate in the veneration of the Cross at your parish on Good Friday.
  • Continue your Good Friday fast up to the start of the Easter Vigil, to correspond to the entire time from Christ’s death on the cross until his resurrection on Easter Sunday.
  • Attend the Easter Vigil at sundown on Holy Saturday to welcome the Easter Sunday feast.
  • On Easter Sunday and throughout the Easter season, fully celebrate the joy of Christ’s Resurrection and the conquering of sin and death he merited for us!

 

 

 


About Gretchen

Gretchen is a recent convert and completely in love with the Catholic faith. She is very active in her parish and has recently joined the Lay Dominicans. She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics & currently works on copywriting and social media for The Catholic Company.
This entry was posted in Holy Day / Feast Day, Prayer and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Lenten Season 101

  1. Gabriel Arredondo says:

    Wonderful article filled with knowledge! Thanks :)

  2. Judy Eidson says:

    Thank you so much for your great article! As a brand new Catholic, I really needed a clarification on everything concerning Lent. You have been a tremendous help. God bless you!

  3. Marge says:

    A wonderful, concise overview of Lent and what it means for Catholics–am sharing this with my email discussion ladies right now.

  4. Amy L says:

    Thank you for the great article. What is the name of the painting of Christ on the cross? Can I get a print of it?

  5. Gretchen says:

    Thanks Amy. I found the image online, I’m not sure what the name is or if it’s available for purchase. You can check out our selection of San Damiano crucifixes which is a Byzantine style of icon cross. Just go to our homepage and type “San Damiano” into the search box.

  6. okolo marilyn says:

    What an inspiring nd soul lifting write up. A gud start 4 happy catholics

  7. Babs says:

    Not too sure if I agree with the fish verses meat thing. What kind of sacrifice is it to give up a burger or for lobster, shrimp, which are expensive. I have been Catholic my whole life & never understood that concept. I think there needs to be better definition of meat & fish.

  8. Gretchen says:

    Hi Babs, the abstinence laws of the Church consider that “meat” comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep, pigs, and birds — all of which live on land. Seafood and shellfish and other things from the ocean are not considered meat. However the USCCB does address your concern: “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.” You can read more here: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-resources/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm

  9. Teresa says:

    Great article…thank you Gretchen. I am a cradle Catholic and am always glad to read interesting facts about my faith. It seems when we were growing up we weren’t given a great deal of facts…we were just expected to do what we were told…or maybe I just wasn’t listening…LOL.
    question: I saw a sign on a local church (non-Catholic) that said Lent…stands for lengthening days…what??? Seems like someone missed the point.

  10. Is it not wonderful to be Catholic and have such a beautiful Season of reflection on the teachings of the Church. Thank you for your insight and love for our Lord.

  11. janette says:

    Thank you for a lovely post

  12. Angie Young says:

    Thank you so much for the article on Lent. It’s nice to have a schedule of all of the important dates of Lent and what is expected. I’m a new Catholic as well so I’m still learning everything that is being Catholic.

  13. Pingback: Today is Fat Tuesday, or as we like to say in Chicago, Paczki Day

  14. Rebecca hamiltom says:

    Thank u for the articles. I am a returning catholic and need this information as I can’t remember every thing they taught us in school.

  15. Ann Chapin says:

    The crucifixion image is one that I did. You can find it here. With the internet being what it is, it is easy for things to go all over, but I would appreciate proper acknowledgment be given. Thanks, Ann Chapin, Artist
    http://www.faceofchrist.gallery/Feast-Days-and-Scripture-Episo/i-r6jmCks

  16. Gretchen says:

    Hi Ann, thank you so much for this comment. Yes, images do get used all over and it is difficult to locate the original source of an image. Your work is very beautiful! We will hyperlink the photo to the link you’ve given here. Unless you would prefer us to remove the image, in which case we can do that as well. God bless and thank you for your beautiful sacred art.

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