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Lent is a 40-day period leading up to Easter, beginning with Ash Wednesday. (This year, Ash Wednesday is February 14.) Lent is a penitential season. That means it is an opportunity to examine your life, give your struggles to God, and invite him to help you become the-best-version-of-yourself.
During Lent, there is a strong focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. All these spiritual exercises help prepare us for the celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Lent this year begins on Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2018).
The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (literally Fat Tuesday). Since Lent is a season of fasting, Fat Tuesday traditionally is a final day of feasting and merrymaking before the 40-day fast.
Easter this year is April 1, 2018.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday, which is March 25, 2018. Holy Thursday, which begins the 3-day period the Church calls the Easter Triduum, is March 29, 2018. Good Friday is March 30, 2018.
Lent is the perfect time to form new life-giving habits and abandon old self-destructive habits. But most of us just give up chocolate. Then, when Easter arrives, we realize we really haven’t grown spiritually since the beginning of Lent.
Giving things up can help us to have a meaningful Lent, but that’s not what Lent is really all about. Lent is about doing something—something bold to become a better husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, friend, neighbor, etc.
What if this year you did more than just give up something during Lent? Do something life-changing.
Sign up for Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever
What You Need To Know About
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are three traditional practices of Lent. They are meant to help us turn away from self-destructive habits and open ourselves to God so he can help us become the-best-version-of-ourselves.
Therese of Lisieux wrote, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” And yet, the truth is, prayer is perhaps the most difficult thing we will ever do.
Prayer is central to the Christian experience. A Christian life is not sustainable without it; growth in the Christian life is simply not possible without prayer. Growing in character and virtue, learning to hear the voice of God in our lives, and walking where he calls us all require the discipline of prayer.
If you want to know God, and if you want to know yourself, pray. Talk to God. There are many different kinds of prayer (adoration, petition, intercession, thanksgiving), but in the end, prayer is simply conversation with God.
Don’t know where to begin? Check out the Dynamic Catholic Prayer Process
Fasting is a spiritual exercise, and is primarily an action of the inner life. We do not fast to impress other people. We fast to cultivate the inner life. Fasting should be an occasion of joy, not a cause of sadness. Authentic fasting draws us nearer to God and opens our hearts to receive his many gifts.
Go without food for several hours and you quickly realize how truly weak, fragile, and dependent we are. This knowledge of self strips away arrogance and fosters a loving acknowledgment of our utter dependence on God.
Catholics are invited to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Guidelines for a day of fasting include eating only two small meals and one full meal, without eating in between meals. Those who are physically unable to fast from food are encouraged to choose something else to fast from on those days.
Catholics often do not eat meat on Fridays, especially during Lent. This is an intentional way to remember Christ’s passion and death with an act of self-denial. It is generally practiced on Fridays, since that is the day that Jesus suffered and died.
Almsgiving is giving to those in need. If we open our eyes we will discover that we are surrounded by need. We are always called to be generous, but during Lent, we are invited to share the love of God with other people by being especially generous with our time, talent, and treasure.
We cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. We cannot save everyone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t save some. Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. And what we can do, all of us, is make small sacrifices, and simplify our lives in some small ways so that others may simply live.
Don’t give up chocolate for lent
We all know the things that make us happy, but we don’t always do them. Lent is an opportunity to change that. Sign up for our free email program Best Lent Ever and get daily inspirational emails that will help you identify what stands between you and happiness . . . and what to do about it. Are you ready for your best Lent ever?