Lent: A Time to Focus
By Mr. Campanelli
So, what is Lent?
It is a special 40-day period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving (helping the poor). We put these special days aside so that we can better prepare for the joy of Easter. The day Jesus rose from the dead. It is also a time when we deepen our commitment to God.
Why is Lent 40 days?
It is 40 days so that we imitate Jesus who spent 40 days in the desert praying and fasting (Matthew 4.2). It is in the desert that Jesus resisted the devil. Lent is a special time for us to look at the evil in our lives and defeat it. In addition, the number 40 is a symbolic number of discipline, devotion and preparation because Moses and the Jewish people spent 40 years in the desert before they reached the Promised Land.
When does Lent start and end?
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday and ends Holy Thursday (the day before Good Friday).
What is Ash Wednesday?
It is the first day of Lent. It is the day we start our return to God. We receive ashes on our foreheads to remind us of our mortality and the need to repent. It is also a day of fasting and abstinence (no meat).
What are the three pillars of Lent?
They are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
How do I fast and abstain from food? When am I supposed to do this?
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are fasting and abstinence days. This means we give up meat (abstain) and eat only one meal (with two smaller meals) throughout the day. The idea is that by giving up food, we focus on the true source of life, which is God. It also helps us think of the poor who have no food.
Fridays in Lent are also days of abstinence. In Canada, this means not eating any meat (fish is the exception) or doing a good deed for somebody or saying a special prayer. Fridays are important because Jesus died on a Friday.
If you need to eat because of medical reasons, you are exempt from this rule. You could replace it with a good deed or special prayer.
What can I do to keep Lent?
Here are some ideas:
Say prayers every morning and evening.
Make a commitment to go to Mass every Sunday, or if you go every Sunday (which you should anyways) maybe go to a weekday Mass.
Make the commitment to pray the Rosary every day.
Give up something for Christ, e.g., TV, gossip, junk food, lying, etc.
Don’t eat any take-out food (or cafeteria food) and donate the money you save to the poor or a special charity.
Volunteer at a charity (don’t forget your community service hours).
Help your grandparents or hang out with your little brother or sister for a day.
Help around the house.
Offer to cook dinner for your parents.
There are many things you can do. Just remember that prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the three main areas of Lent.
The period of Lent is very important! The more seriously you take it, the deeper your relationship with God will grow. In addition, the joy of Easter, with all the good foods and chocolate, will seem even better. Most importantly, you will experience the greatness of Jesus rising from the dead on Easter!
There are over one billion Catholics in the world. Imagine if we all took Lent seriously by praying, fasting and doing good works! We could change the world in 40 days! What are you going to do this Lent?