“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” -Ephesians 6:10-13
Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will be here in no time. Catholics all around the world will be called to participate in the season of penance. The Church in her wisdom knows that we need this regular time of purification and strengthening so that we will be better prepared to fight the battles that God calls us to.
- What is Lent?
- How Do I Observe Lent?
- How Will Lent Make Me Stronger?
What is Lent?
Each year the Church follows the example of Jesus who spent forty days in prayer and fasting in the desert. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending with the Easter Triduum, the Church observes a forty day period of penance called Lent.
“By the solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” -Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 540
How Do I Observe Lent?
The Church calls on us during this period of penance to intensify our fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These actions purify and re-order how we relate to ourselves, to God, and to others.
Through fasting, we free ourselves from the bond of the flesh and open ourselves up to the desires of the soul. Fasting strengthens our resolve to eliminate all those things in our lives which cuts us off from God’s supernatural grace.
Certain days in Lent are required days of fasting. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence.
On days of abstinence, Catholics aged fourteen and older must refrain from eating meat. On fasting days, Catholics between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine may eat only one meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.
However, in addition to these required fasting days, many Catholics during Lent choose to push themselves to offer more in sacrifice to the Lord. Learn more about fasting.
The second way to observe Lent is by boosting your prayer time. According to St. Alphonsus Liguori, “Mental prayer is the blessed furnace in which souls are inflamed with the love of God. All the saints have become saints by mental prayer.”
Use this time of Lent to either start a daily habit of prayer or increase what you’re already doing. Clinging to God through prayer is essential for becoming strong in His supernatural grace.
Finally, Catholics are urged to give alms during Lent as a reparation for their sins and to restore justice in society. St. Peter says that this kind of charity “covers a multitude of sins.”
How Will Lent Make Me Stronger?
Lent is the perfect opportunity to strive to become free from all those things that separate us from the love and life of God’s grace. It provides us with a means to arm ourselves with weapons of self-restraint.
Although it seems like the Church is just piling more on top of our to-do lists, She instead is inviting us to lay down our weak methods of coping--sin, pleasure, avoidance, etc.--and gives us in exchange the armor of God to do battle with the spiritual forces that fight us daily.
Lent isn’t just something to suffer through. It’s a means to become truly strong in God’s love so that we can live the peace offered to us by Christ.
Roman Catholic Gear’s Peace Through Strength Journal
Keep track of your relationship with God with the Roman Catholic Gear Journal. With space to document your journey with God, as well as daily checklists of essential Catholic practices, our journal is designed to accompany you for ninety days as you build a strong daily routine of prayer and participation in the sacraments.
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