"This is our accepted time. This is our salvation. Prayer and fasting are our aim, penance our vocation." -Joel 2:12
During Lent, we are called to prayer, fasting and good works (alms giving). Lent is a season of repentance and conversion during which we become aware of the richness of God's mercy, love and forgiveness. It is a time of enlightenment and purification.
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, March 9 to Trinity Sunday, June 15. However, the Church’s law does permit this precept to be fulfilled at another time during the year when there is a just cause. The purpose of fast and abstinence is to make physical sacrifices that lead us to an awareness of the spiritual sacrifices we could be making. They are reminders to us to pray for the less fortunate, and to offer the money we save through our fasting and abstinence to the poor. It is an opportunity to look beyond ourselves to the suffering of others and to take action to alleviate their suffering. It is also helpful for giving us a chance to reflect on our excesses—physical, emotional, whatever — and root them out to make more room for Christ in our hearts.
What Should I Do For Lent? Pope Francis' 10 Tips by Kevin Cotter.
Every year Catholics try to answer the age old question: What should I do for Lent? Well, who better to pick for as your Lenten spiritual director than Pope Francis? He has some great ideas for you! Here we selected 10 of his best tips:
- Get rid of the lazy addiction to evil
“[Lent] is a ‘powerful’ season, a turning point that can foster change and conversion in each of us. We all need to improve, to change for the better. Lent helps us and thus we leave behind old habits and the lazy addiction to the evil that deceives and ensnares us.” – General Audience, March 5, 2014
- Do something that hurts
“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.” – Lenten Message, 2014
- Don’t remain indifferent
“Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience. God is not indifferent to our world; he so loves it that he gave his Son for our salvation.” – Lenten Message, 2015
- Pray: Make our hearts like yours!
“During this Lent, then, brothers and sisters, let us all ask the Lord: ‘Fac cor nostrum secundum cor tuum’: Make our hearts like yours (Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). 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.” – Lenten Message, 2015
- Take part in the sacraments
“Lent is a favorable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ.” – Lenten Message, 2015
“In the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could harden our hearts, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of God’s boundless love, to taste his tenderness. Lent is a time of prayer, of more intense prayer, more prolonged, more assiduous, more able to take on the needs of the brethren; intercessory prayer, to intercede before God for the many situations of poverty and suffering.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
“We must be careful not to practice a formal fast, or one which in truth ‘satisfies’ us because it makes us feel good about ourselves. Fasting makes sense if it questions our security, and if it also leads to some benefit for others, if it helps us to cultivate the style of the Good Samaritan, who bends down to his brother in need and takes care of him.” – Homi-ly, March 5, 2014
“Today gratuitousness is often not part of daily life where everything is bought and sold. Everything is calcu-lated and measured. Almsgiving helps us to experience giving freely, which leads to freedom from the obsession of pos-sessing, from the fear of losing what we have, from the sadness of one who does not wish to share his wealth with others.” – Homily, March 5, 2014
- Help the Poor
“In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distri-bution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.” – Lenten Message, 2014
“The Lord asks us to be joyous heralds of this message of mercy and hope! It is thrilling to experience the joy of spreading this good news, sharing the treasure entrusted to us, consoling broken hearts and offering hope to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness.” – Lenten Message, 2014
You probably won’t be able to take huge steps forward in all of these areas. Instead, pick a couple that stand out to you and try to find practical ways to grow in your love of God and your love of your neighbor.