During his pontificate, Pope Francis has described Lent in many ways — as a time of recovery, renewal and conversion, a time to receive the love of God and rediscover the direction of life.
In his Lenten message for 2021 the Holy Father reflected, “In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Looking forward, this 40-day season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving begins again on Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022, and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday, April 14, 2022.
The season of Lent as a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection at Easter is an opportunity for the faithful to undertake the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a means to know Christ better and follow His will more faithfully.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence from meat for Catholics from the age of 18 to 59, meaning only one full meal and two smaller meals not equal to a full meal are permitted. The Church asks that, if possible, the fast on Good Friday, the “paschal fast,” be continued until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday to honour the suffering and death of Jesus and prepare more fully for His resurrection.
In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence from meat from the age of 14.
Lent is also the time for the baptized to renew their baptismal commitment, while those who desire to become Catholics enter a process of learning and discernment, the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, in preparation for baptism during the Easter Vigil.
As the three pillars of Lent, prayer, fasting and almsgiving are not meant to be undertaken simply to fulfil the “rules” of Lent. Prayer, from the heart; fasting from those things that interfere in strengthening a relationship with God; and almsgiving with compassion for those in need will make the Lenten journey a fruitful period of renewal.
MARY REGINA MORRELL
— Originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
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