Our observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 18, this year and is a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. At Mass on Ash Wednesday, the imposition of ashes replicates an ancient penitential practice and symbolizes our dependence upon God's mercy and forgiveness.
During Lent, the U.S. bishops are encouraging Catholics to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives. They have issued a statement, "God's Gift of Forgiveness: The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation" to be shared amongst Catholics.
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 the Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The fasting that 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.
The keys to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called no just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil and began new life in Christ.
On these pages you will find a variety of suggestions and resources to support your Lenten practice, enhance your prayer and embrace your baptismal commitment.
Fasting and Abstinence
Resources for Almsgiving
Resources for Lenten Prayer
Lenten Question and Answer