So…what is Lent all about?

What Is Lent? 

As we enter this season in the spirit of the Church and of her liturgy we seek to wash away the stains of sin and to rid ourselves of all that prevents us from living a truly Christian life. We offer these instuctions, prayers and activities to help in our attempt to be united to our suffering Savior. The more perfectly we are united with Him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and in the Eucharist the more we shall share His new life and glorification at Easter.

The Mystery of Lent

An explanation of the history and significance of Lent to our spiritual lives.


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 this holy season, inextricably connected to the Paschal Mystery, the Catechumens prepare for Christian initiation, and current Church members prepare for Easter by a recalling of Baptism and by works of penance, that is, prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Even in the early Church, Lent was the season for prayerful and penitential preparation for the feast of Easter. Though the obligation of penance was originally only imposed on those who had committed public sins and crimes, by medieval times all the faithful voluntarily performed acts of penance to repair for their sins.

Ash Wednesday is the clarion call to “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mk 1:15). For the next forty days, the faithful willingly submit to fasting and self-denial in imitation of Our Lord’s forty-day fast in the desert. It is in these dark and still nights, these desert-times, that the soul experiences its greatest growth. There, in the inner arena, the soul battles the world, the flesh and the devil just as Our Lord battled Satan’s triple temptation in the desert. His battle was external, for Jesus could not sin; our battle is interior, but with a hope sustained by the knowledge of Christ’s Easter victory over sin and death.

His victory is our renewal, our “spring” — which is the meaning of the Anglo-Saxon word,“lengten” or Lent. In this penitential season we have the opportunity to make an annual spiritual “tune-up”, a 40-day retreat with Our Lord. Have we allowed worldly cares and the “daily drama” to obscure our call to holiness? Have self-love and materialism eroded our relationship with God? Then let us renew our efforts, and through our Lenten observance, discipline the body and master it as we “follow in the footsteps of the poor and crucified Christ” (St. Francis of Assisi).

A Two-Fold Theme: Baptism and Penance

An explanation of the Lenten themes of Baptism and Penance and how it relates to us.


In the ancient church, the sacrament of Baptism was usually performed once a year at Easter. Only adults who were educated in the Catholic Faith were baptized. No one could be baptized until they had learned the catechism. When a person had a sufficient grasp of the Faith, he/she was put forth as a candidate, or “catechumen.” Final examinations or “scrutinies” were given to these catechumens 40 days before Easter to decide who was ready to be baptized at Easter. Lent was originally a time of final preparation for the reception of the sacrament of Baptism at the Easter Vigil. Infant Baptism was rare until the beginning of the fifth century. But it was always regarded as valid and as an apostolic institution, as we know from Irenaeus, Origen and St. Cyprian. Sponsors at the Baptism of children are mentioned as early as A.D. 200 by Tertullian.

The focus on our baptismal vows and the participation in voluntary acts of penance during Lent, as practiced by the early Church, needs to be recaptured. Vatican II, as stated through Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), urges this return to this original spirit of Lent:

The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent—(1) the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and (2) penance—should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepared the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God’s word more frequently and devote more time to prayer.During Lent, penance should be not only be internal and individual but also external and social. The practice of penance should be encouraged in ways suited to the present day, to different regions, and to individual circumstances. (109, 110)

The General Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar and Ceremonial of Bishops from 1969 echoes this exhortation:

Through the two-fold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies, and catechesis. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.Catechesis should impress upon the minds of the faithful not only the social consequences of sin but also the essence of the virtue of penance, namely, detestation of sin as an offense against God. The role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be neglected, and the people are to be exhorted to pray for sinners.

During Lent penance should not be only inward and individual but also outward and social, and should be directed toward works of mercy on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

The faithful should be urged to take a greater and more fruitful share in the Lenten liturgy and penitential services. They should be advised particularly to approach the sacrament of penance during Lent, in accordance with the law and traditions of the Church, so that they may share in the joys ofEaster Sunday with purity of heart.” (as taken from Daily Roman Missal copyright 1993, Fr. James Socias)

Lenten Activities

This Lent why not take time to tap the treasuries of the Church’s liturgy for your children? How many Catholics use only part of the Church’s spiritual riches! We are called to restore things in Christ, so this Lent make time for God. Ordinarily we assign only minutes a day to Him. Yet we need Him so badly in every area of life. Use this section of Catholic Culture’s site as a spring board of ideas that you can employ to impress upon your children the great mysteries which we are celebrating in the Lenten season.

Activities for Children – Click here

A Personal Program

It should not be enough to slide through Lent by just observing the fast and abstinence laws. We should all undertake a Lenten program, an inward cleansing and purification, for oneself and the family. The program needs to be planned and organized. Ask the question: What shall I and my family do this year for Lent? Goals and activities should be realistic and reasonable.

The principal works of Lent can be divided into the following six categories:

  1. Fasting and Mortification
  2. Prayers
  3. Almsgiving/Acts of Charity
  4. Good Works
  5. Education
  6. Self-Denial
The Stations of the Cross 

Before visiting the Stations, let each one make an act of contrition and form the intention of gaining the indulgences, whether for himself or for the souls in purgatory.

Act of Contrition

My Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast made this journey to die for me with love unutterable, and I have so many times unworthily abandoned Thee; but now I love Thee with my whole heart, and because I love Thee I repent sincerely for having ever offended Thee. Pardon me, my God, and permit me to accompany Thee on this journey. Thou goest to die for love of me; I wish also, my beloved Redeemer, to die for love of Thee. My Jesus, I will live and die always united to Thee.

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be to the Father

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last. 

To Continue the Stations Click Here


With Special Thanks to all at

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s