Our observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is a day of fast 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 this Lent, you are encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives. During Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become 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 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 key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not 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.
Below you will find a variety of suggestions and resources to support your Lenten practice, enhance your prayer, and embrace your baptismal commitment.
Let us begin with a short two-minute presentation on Lent produced by Busted Halo:
The Seven Penitential Psalms
During times when we wish to express repentance and especially during Lent, it is customary to pray the seven penitential psalms. The penitential designation of these psalms dates from the seventh century. Prayerfully reciting these psalms will help us to recognize our sinfulness, express our sorrow and ask for God’s forgiveness. The Psalms are:
The Songs of the Suffering Servant
Within the Book of the Prophet Isaiah we encounter four poetic sections known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. The specific identity of this Servant of the Lord remains the topic of scholarly debate. Perhaps it refers to the prophet Isaiah himself, perhaps the entire nation of Israel, or possibly the promised Messiah. Christian faith sees these prophetic utterances fulfilled in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Lord.
· The first song introduces God’s Servant who will establish justice upon the earth (Isaiah 42 v1-4)
· The second song, spoken in the Servant’s own voice, tells of being selected from the womb to become God’s mouthpiece and help renew the nation. (Isaiah 49 v1-6)
· In the third song, we learn of the abuse and derision the Servant endured at the hands of his enemies. (Isaiah 50 v4-9)
· The fourth song proclaims the salvific value of the Servant’s innocent suffering that will justify many and blot out their offenses. (Isaiah 52 v13- 53v12)
Because of the Christian identification of the Suffering Servant with Jesus, the four Servant Songs become a way of encountering the Lord during this Lenten Season. Not only do they give us a sense of the commitment and endurance that characterized his messianic ministry, but they become a way of touching the bruised face of the Messiah, of hearing the resolute determination that sustained him in the midst of trial, and of rejoicing with him in God’s ultimate vindication of his calling and service.
The Stations of the Cross began as the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem who would retrace the final journey of Jesus Christ to Calvary. Later, for the many who wanted to pass along the same route, but could not make the trip to Jerusalem, a practice developed that eventually took the form of the fourteen stations currently found in almost every church. Similarly, the 150 Hail Marys that were recited for the rosary were an adaptation of the medieval monastic practice of reciting the 150 psalms in the Psalter.
To pray the Stations of the Cross click here
May this Lent be a time of renewal in your faith and filled with many blessings.