Living LentCANADIAN CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS
What does Lent mean today? How do we keep it? What can our family do?
History: Lent has been part of the Church's life for at least the past 1700
years. It began as a period of special preparation for adults being baptized during
the Easter vigil. Gradually it became a period of penance and conversion for public
sinners and also for devout members of the community.
of Lent today: Lent is a time of prayer and penance, when Christ wants
to lead us back to our baptismal promises of dying to sin and of living for God.
During Lent, God's people seek to put sin out of their lives by uprooting habits
and tendencies that are contrary to God's will. It is a time of conversion, of
turning away from our sins and of turning back to God.
- Living for God:
The Lord Jesus is calling us to be people of praise and prayer, and living
signs of his love for all. During Lent, we open our hearts to our Father, so that
we may live with Christ for God.
works: What should we be doing for Lent? Today the Church is inviting
us to prepare for Easter by doing individual penance and penance as a group; by
reading God's word more carefully; by praying more ardently, including sincere
prayer for sinners.
Ten forms of penance:
These are "the top ten" in the tradition of the Christian people. They are our
daily responsibility as believers; in Lent, we concentrate on them a little more
- Giving up sin: Jesus tells us that we show our love for him by keeping his commandments, especially
by loving others as he has loved us. We are called to live blameless lives as
God's holy people, the Church. Our God wants us to turn away from our sins, our
failings, our laziness in prayer, our unwillingness to do better.
- Praying: Jesus and his apostles
tell us to pray always, to be constant in prayer. Traditional times for Christians
to pray are morning, evening, and mealtimes. Personal prayer is a necessary preparation
for our sharing in the Church's public worship, the liturgy. In our love, we join
Jesus and all God's people in praying for ourselves, for our family and friends,
for our leaders, for those who suffer, and for the Church and the world.
- Fasting: Fasting means cutting
down on the amount and richness of our food and drink. Done as a penance for sin,
it helps us to pray better: an empty stomach can lead to fuller prayer. The money
we save on food should be given to others in alms. The law of fasting obliges
adults until they are 59 years old.
good works: Jesus went about doing good. The apostles continued
to teach us to do good works, to help those in need, to give others the good example
of our living, to pray for other people, and to be ready to serve them in their
time of need. The list is endless, but can be summarized in a few words: we are
to help Jesus and come to his aid by helping other people in a spirit of love.
- Giving alms: We give alms to help God's poor, and to support the good works of the Church and
other positive agencies. Again our help is being given to Christ in his brothers
and sisters. Many Churches encourage giving 10% -- the biblical tithe --
as the minimum gift to God and to God's works. We do not give in order to show
off or keep up with others; instead we give cheerfully to God, who has given us
everything we have.
This form of penance needs to be seen as a near cousin of fasting. We may give
up meat or other desirable foods on one or two days a week during Lent, especially
on Friday, the day of Christ's saving death on the cross. Our abstinence is another
way of sharing in Christ's work of saving the world.
Throughout the year,
every Friday is a day of abstinence from meat, obliging all Catholics who are
14 years or older. We may substitute special acts of charity (such as visiting
the sick or aged, helping those in any need, or contributing time or money to
a work of charity) or acts of piety (taking part in a service of worship with
others, praying with our family, or spending some extra time in personal prayer,
especially with God's holy word in the scriptures).
out our duties of state: This is perhaps the hardest and most
unrecognized form of penance. We serve God by living out our vocation in love
each day. We do our best for God by being a good mother, father, teacher, worker,
student, religious, minister, priest. God is calling each of us to be a living
sacrifice, and to offer our daily life through Christ.
reading: In an age of constant bombardment by noise and sights,
Christians need time to read and reflect. Believers have to nourish their faith
by reading. Prayerful reading of God's word each day opens our hearts to the Spirit,
and lets God's thoughts and ways influence ours. Reading other Christian books
and magazines will help us to be stronger in our faith and in our living.
- Controlling our desires for possessions:
Jesus reminds us that our heart will be wherever our treasure is. He tells us
to build up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. Today's consumer is constantly
tempted to buy more and more things: everything has to be newer, bigger, better,
and automatic. As Christians, we should be cutting down on our possessions, eliminating
frills, giving our surplus to others, lessening our wants, and sharing ourselves,
our time, our talents, and our possessions with others.
our desire for entertainment: Too much entertainment -- by radio,
TV, movies, spectator sports, light reading, distractions -- can dull our
taste for the things of God, and lead us to have no time for the works of the
Lent in Our Home
Examine your conscience: At the beginning of Lent, discuss each of the ten penances with your family. How can you improve your present way of life?
Your resolution: Make a serious resolution to do several actions of penance, both individually and as a family, each day during this Lent.
Rewards of a good Lent: The Lord Jesus rewards those who are generous in his service. A good Lent is a sharing in his cross, and leads us to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter vigil.
Father in heaven,
help us to love you.
us to carry our cross with you.
your love into our hearts.
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Living Lent." Concacan
Living Lent -- Liturgical leaflet, edited by the National
Liturgical Office, and published by Publications Service, Canadian Conference
of Catholic Bishops, 90 Parent Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1 N 761 Canada. Copyright
© 1986, Concacan Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this leaflet may be reproduced
in any form without the prior written permission of Publications Service, CCCB.
Living Lent is reprinted with permission from the Canadian Conference of Catholic
Copyright © 1986 Canadian Conference
of Catholic Bishops