“Make our hearts like Yours. In this way we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” – Pope Francis
Pope Francis asks that during our 2015 Lenten journey, we raise up the needs of the world in prayer, sacrifice by giving up food and material wants, and offer our time, talent and treasure as good stewards of the gifts God has given us.
What Is Lent?
- Lent is the penitential season of approximately 40 days set aside by the Church in order for the faithful to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
- During Lent we examine our lives and repent or gain a new perspective or path forward. Christians often take up special spiritual practices during Lent such as fasting and spending more time in prayer.
- Lent is a time when we stop and assess how we’re doing in our walk with God. Lent helps us identify spiritual areas in which we can grow and sinful areas that we need to avoid.
- The word “Lent” comes from an old English word for springtime. Think of it as a form of spring-cleaning for the soul. In the early years of the Church it was confined to a few days before Easter. But by the fourth century it was extended to forty days before Easter, a period associated with the forty days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert just after his baptism.
- As the Church points out, we are all sinners and we all need repentance. Lent gives us a chance during a special time of the year to do just that.
When Does Lent Begin? How Long Does It Last?
- Lent begins today, Wednesday, February 18th this year, when hundreds of millions of Catholics and other Christians receive ashes on their foreheads in churches all over the world. We call this day, Ash Wednesday. We use ashes as an outward expression of our need to begin again.
- Lent ends at the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 2.
- Since Old Testament times, ashes have been used as a symbol of mortality. When ashes are placed on our foreheads we hear the words: “Remember man that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Gen. 3:19 or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
- It’s a reminder that the world that often seems so important to us at this moment is passing and we need to give more thought to what lies at the end: eternal life.
- Ashes are also a sign of our need to do penance, a heartfelt acknowledgment we are sinners. To many in the modern world, the very concept of sin seems old-fashioned. Yet sin is part of our human nature.
- Ashes, made by burning palms blessed the previous Palm Sunday, symbolize the transience of our earthly status. The body must fall temporarily into dust. This fact should serve as a challenge to spiritual accomplishments. Through grace we were “buried” in Christ that we may rise with him and “live unto God.” Ashes are not a sign of death but a promise of life.
- Ashes may be received by anyone who wishes to do so.
- With the blessing of ashes the priest asks that we be faithful to the Lenten observance and thus be able to celebrate with clean hearts the paschal mystery.
Ash Wednesday at Cabrini
Ashes will be distributed at Mass in the Bruckmann Memorial Chapel of St. Joseph at 12:30PM and 5:15PM.
Ashes will also be distributed in the lobbies of the Iadarola Center and Founder’s Hall, 9:20‑9:40AM and 1:30‑1:50PM.
- The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms.
- The fasting that we all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities.
- Likewise, the giving of alms is some effort to share this world equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents.
What the Catholic Church asks of us as baptized Catholics:
- The days of fast (only one full meal) and abstinence (no meat) are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
- All other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (no meat).
Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast (only one full meal) as above. From the age of 14, people are also obliged to abstain (no meat: this obligation prohibits the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat).
The obligation to observe the laws of fast and abstinence is a serious one for Catholics. Failure to observe one penitential day in itself is not considered a serious sin. It is the failure to observe any penitential days at all, or a substantial number of days, which must be considered serious.
The obligation, the privilege really, of receiving the Eucharist at least once a year — often called “Easter duty” — for those in the state of grace should still be fulfilled during the period from the First Sunday of Lent, February 22nd to Trinity Sunday, May 31st. However, the Church’s law does permit this precept to be fulfilled at another time during the year when there is a just cause.
Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three traditional disciplines of Lent. The faithful and catechumens should undertake these practices seriously in a spirit of penance and preparation for baptism or renewal of baptism at Easter.
If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.
Online Lenten Resources
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops – Pray, Fast. Give
Father Barron’s Lenten Reflections – Sign up for daily reflections sent right to your inbox.
What is Lent? – Video Series by Catholic Relief Services
What Should I Do For Lent? – Pope Francis’ 10 Tips
Prayer for Lent
Merciful Father, send your Holy Spirit upon us this Lent to guide us by the light of the gospel. May we set aside all that keeps us from taking up our cross and following Jesus. May all our prayer, self-denial and acts of charity lead us closer to you and deepen our compassion for our suffering brothers and sisters. Revive in us a lively sense of the divine gifts of faith, hope and charity so that, whatever the circumstances of our lives, we can trust in your everlasting care. Amen
Submitted by Sharon Shipley Zubricky ’76