Lent 2012

Published on Feb 24th, 2012 by Austin Keith | 0
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert.” Mark 1:12
Join us throughout Lent to learn more about ways you can enrich your faith life leading up to Easter!

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert
This quotation from the Gospel of Mark is heard on the first Sunday of Lent this year. It challenges us to recall not only Jesus’ 40 day journey in the desert, but also to set the tone for our own 40 day journey to Easter. The season of Lent has traditionally been a season of fasting, special prayer and charitable works. The current term “Lent” is from the Middle English and Anglo Saxon word meaning “spring.” But, there is a far older ecclesiastical (church) name, tessaracoste, taken from the Greek, which means “40 days.” 

This idea of 40 days is first mentioned in writings from the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., and it alludes to this 40 day journey of Jesus as well as those desert journeys of Moses and Elijah. By the fourth century, in most of the Western Church, it referred to the six days per week fast during the six weeks prior to Easter. In the seventh century, Ash Wednesday and the following Thursday, Friday and Saturday were added to bring the number of days to 40. Sundays, in honor of the day of the Resurrection, are not counted in the 40 days.

Fasting: The penitential practice of fasting in the days preceding Easter was the general practice by the end of the second century. This fast became more severe as Easter approached. While the Church has specific regulations for fasting and abstinence during Lent, Catholics have had a long tradition of fostering self-discipline by giving up foods or activities they enjoy during Lent so as to focus better on their relationship with God.  There is also a call for fasting from things that prevent spiritual growth. For example, some Catholics may choose to give up a harmful practice, such as gossip, bullying, dishonesty, etc. Still others might “take on” a practice that enriches them spirituality such as daily Mass attendance, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, etc.  Whether it is a physical or spiritual fast or both, this is one of the cornerstone elements of the season of Lent.

The Rules for Fasting and Abstinence:Ash Wednesday and all Fridays in Lent including Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have completed their 14th year.

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) because the “paschal fast” honors the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and it helps us to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection. (http://www.usccb.org/)

Prayer: The second key element in the Lenten journey is taking the time to strengthen a healthy prayer life. Good goals for Lent might be for us to pray Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer daily or add the other parts of the Liturgy of the Hours to our prayer routines. We could set aside 10 minutes each day to read Scripture or pray the Seven Penitential Psalms (Psalm 6, 31, 50, 101, 129 and 142). Spending additional time in quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament or scheduling time to attend daily Mass also would encourage us during our 40 day journey.  We might do some spiritual reading or listen to a spiritual speaker. We could attend the Lenten mission at our own or a neighboring parish.

Almsgiving: For many Catholics, the giving of money to Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul Society or other worthy causes is routine. The concept of almsgiving goes deeper than just dropping money in the basket. The true spirit of almsgiving is one of stewardship…the giving of time and talent as well as treasure. During this 40 day journey, we should find ways to utilize our strengths to help others who are not able to help themselves.  “For it is in giving that we receive…”

These traditional practices of Lent call to mind our baptismal call to spiritual renewal. As we head toward the death and Resurrection of Christ, we too die to our old selves and find our new life in Christ.

Resources for Lent

The Holy Father’s Lenten Message on Fraternal Correction available in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish at: www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/lent/index_en.htm

Journey to the Foot of the Cross USCCB Blog by Bishop Ricken on “10 Things to Remember for Lent”: http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/2012/02/journey-to-foot-of-cross-bishop-ricken.html

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Lenten Resources:

Lenten resources from St. Anthony Messenger Press, including:
Lent with the Saints by Franciscan Father Greg Friedman
Lenten soundbytes
Lenten Radio

Praying Lent, the Creighton University online resources provide Stations of the Cross, a Lenten Retreat, daily meditations, spiritual readings:

Resources to use with children; has links to many other sites: