What is Lent?
Written by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Give Up, Take Up, Lift Up!
“In his Lenten message for 2014, Pope Francis takes inspiration from the words of St. Paul (Cor 8:9), and asks us to contemplate Paul’s invitation to live ‘a life of evangelical poverty.’
We can begin to embrace this call by fasting from or “giving up” material things, including foods, that are superfluous to our basic needs; “taking up” charitable habits that are directed to helping and caring for others; and “lifting up” our brothers and sisters who are in need through giving alms, praying and participating in devotional practices.
‘In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ.’ — Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2014. . .
By taking an active approach to the three traditional pillars of Lenten observance, prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we recognize that to be evangelists, we must first be evangelized ourselves. Spiritual suggestions, along with inspirational words from Pope Francis and some of the saints who are remembered during the season on our downloadable Lenten calendar provide a daily reminder of your evangelical call.
This Lent, we also have urgent reason to focus prayer and attention on peace in the Holy Land, as our leaders work to resolve the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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. Contemplate the meaning and origins of the Lenten fasting tradition in this reflection.
In 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 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.
On these pages, you will find a variety of suggestions and resources to help you to “give up,” “take up,” and “lift up” during this Lent and embrace your baptismal commitment.
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent. The U.S. Bishops’ statement, ‘God’s Gift of Forgiveness: The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation’ can be distributed and shared in parishes. Dioceses are encouraged to make the sacrament available often during Lent and to use these resources to promote participation. We also have resources to help individuals who have not been to confession in a while “rediscover” the sacrament.”
Originally posted on http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-resources/lent/index.cfm.