Wednesday, February 23, 2011

LENT 2011

Once again, it is time for our Aggie Catholics annual Lenten mega-post.  Links, videos, and resources will be added and updated throughout the Lenten season.  Please leave your feedback in the comments and anything that needs to be added.  Thanks for reading.

Things you will find below include:
Scroll down to get to all the goodies.

When Does Lent Start in 2010?
Lent starts on Ash Wed, March 9.  Easter Sunday is April 24.

What is Lent?
Lent is a time when the Catholic Church collectively enters into preparation for the celebration of Easter. Lent originally developed as a forty-day retreat, preparing converts to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. It is a season of conversion for all. Conversion is the process of turning away from sin and turning to God. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday, the first day of the Triduum, the three holy days before Easter.

Are Sundays a part of Lent?
Sundays are always a day of celebration of Christ's passion and Resurrection, so we celebrate on these days. While still part of the season of Lent, they have a mixture of both celebration (because it is Sunday) and repentance (because it is Lent).

Does this mean I can "cheat" on Sundays?
Since Sundays are not part of the penitential season, you do not have to practice signs of penitence on these days. But, there is no reason you can't do them either. If you feel you are "cheating" then it isn't helping! Since the Church has some conflicting information (different documents state different things) I think you should do what you feel is best regarding the Lenten season and Sundays. In other words, follow your conscience.

2011 Liturgical Calendar UPDATE - Friday, March 25th is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Therefore, the Solemnity takes precedence over the Friday of Lent, which means that you need not abstain from meat on this Friday.

Why forty days and not some other number?
Because 40 is a special number in the Bible. It signifies preparation for something special - as in the 40 day flood of Noah.
  • *Moses stayed on the Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18),
  •  Jonah gives the people of Ninevah forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) - (there are many other Old Testament stories)
  • *We also see this with Jesus, before starting his ministry, he spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).

So, as in the Bible, we spend forty days in preparing ourselves to rejoice at the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.

So, what is Ash Wednesday all about?
Ash Wednesday is so named because this first day of Lent is where we are marked with ashes to show the repentance of our sins and mourning. This is also a Biblical sign that we live today. We can see this in several verses.
  • "I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes" (Dan 9:3)
  • Other verses include: 1 Sam 4:12, Jon 3:6, Esther 4:1 and Matt 11:20-21

Today, ashes are still this same sign of repentance and mourning for our sins. They also represent our mortality. "I am nothing but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27). We started as nothing and our bodies will become dust and ashes after our death. Reminding ourselves that nobody escapes physical death, we look forward to eternal life.

So, why are the ashes made into a cross on the forehead?
Because it is the ancient sign of being marked by Christ in our baptism. We are no longer our own, but Jesus Christ owns us. The book of Revelation tells us that all the elect will be marked by the sign of Christ - "On Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." (Rev 14:1)

Where do we get the ashes?
They come from burning the palms from last years Palm Sunday Masses.

Who can receive ashes?
Anyone can receive ashes on Ash Wed. While we have communion only for Catholics who are in good standing with the Church, all may receive ashes.

Is Ash Wed a holy day of Obligation?
No. But all Catholics are strongly urged to attend, because it is the start of the Lenten season. It is the day with the most people in Mass for Catholic Churches in the United States.

Do we have to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wed?
Yes. This means that all Catholics from 14 and up are required to abstain from meat and Catholics 18-60 are required to eat only one average meal and two snacks without anything else. Children, the elderly and those who are sick are not obligated to do this.

Why fast?
Again, this is because we are called to by Jesus. By denying ourselves something good, we remember what the highest good of all is - GOD. We also practice self-discipline and self-mastery, which we need in order to achieve holiness. Jesus fasted in the desert and calls us to as well.
  • "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full." (Matt 6: 16)
  • "and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer." (Luke 2:37)
  • Fasting also helps focus us in our prayer. *Yet when they were ill, I...humbled myself with fasting.” (Psalm 35:13)

Why abstain from meat?
Because of the spiritual discipline it provides. "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Dan 10:1-3) We give up meat, which still today is a luxury in some parts of the world, as a good thing that we offer up in order to remember that Christ is better than food and needed more by all of us than anything else.

Why is fish not considered meat?
Because it was the food of the poor who could not afford meat, yet could catch fish to sustain themselves.

So, what are the other days of fast and abstinence?
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence - Friday was the day Christ died.

So, why do people "give up" things during Lent?
While we are not required to “give something up” we are required to do something penitential. Lent is a great time to break a bad habit and give it to the Lord. These sins and vices we should not take back after Lent. It is also a time to give something up that is good during this season. This is why people give up something they enjoy. In doing so we can draw closer to God by our temporary sacrifice. We should find an appropriate balance of giving something up and not completely cutting ourselves off of good things. We will find our need for God if we do it correctly.

What else then IS required during Lent?
The Church asks us to increase our prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is assumed that we are already doing these things and should merely increase them.

Got any suggestions?
First off, pray about what you are going to do for Lent. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in your spiritual practice of Lent. Then find a few things that you feel called to do. Don't do too much or too little. Stretch yourself, but don't pick things you won't stick to.


Increased Prayer:
*Wake up 20 minutes early and start the day in prayer.
*Daily Mass 1-2 times a week.
*An hr. in Adoration a week.
*Go to Confession.
*Read Scripture daily.
*Go to a Lenten Bible study.
*Read a spiritual book.
*Start to pray a daily Rosary.
*Pray the Liturgy of the hours.
*Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet.
*Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
*Pray for your enemies.
*Watch The Passion of the Christ and then meditate on Christ’s life.
*Read about the life of a saint.
*Do an extra spiritual activity at Church
*Get involved in your parish if you aren’t already.
*Memorize Scripture verses.
*Check out a book on spirituality from the parish library.

Increased Almsgiving:
*When you fast from a meal, give the money you would spend to the poor.
*Use a coin box from and put all change into it for the poor.
*Volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul or another charitable organization.
*Spend more time with your parents.
*Visit a nursing home.
*Start tithing.
*Make a pledge to a worthy charity.
*Forgive an old grudge.
*Invite someone to Church.
*Share your faith with someone.
*Give someone a Catholic tract or CD.
*Exercise patience and love.
*Speak in a pleasant tone to everyone.
*Look for extra ways to help others.
*Go out of your way to talk to someone who is shy or difficult.
*Offer to watch a mother’s child(ren).
*Drive with love.
*Write a letter to a relative you haven’t seen in a while.

Increased fasting:
The following are good things we can fast from and have back at a later time:
*Fast on bread and water on Fridays.
*Fast from TV.
*Fast from snacking or candy.
*Fast from the radio in your car.
*Fast from ‘facebook’ / internet.
*Fast from caffeine.
*Do not use seasoning on your food.

The following are things we can fast from and continue to give up:
*Fast from alcohol (especially if you drink too much or are not 21.
*Fast from speeding.
*Fast from sarcasm or gossip.
*Fast from pornography.
*Fast from being lazy or lying.
*Fast from not studying / working hard.
*Fast from complaining.
*Fast from some other bad habit.

Here is a list of links about lent. If you have any to add, then leave in the comments or shoot me an email.

Prayers, History, Lenten Suggestions:
* - Lenten reflections, questions, and more.
* - Lent 2011 pages
*Creighton University - Lenten prayers.
*Catholic Encyclopedia - entry on Lent
*Catholic Culture - Personal Lenten program.
*Our Sunday Visitor - Lenten resources.
*Catholic Online - Lent 2011
*Jimmy Akin's Annual Lent Fight - good stuff if you like details.
*Byzantine Catholic - Lenten resources for Byzantine Catholics.
* - exploring Lent.
*Catholic Pages - Lenten links.
*National Catholic Register - Fasting for lent.
*North American College - the Station Churches of Rome for Lent.

Catholic New Media on Lent:

*Fr. Barron on Lent:

*Apostleship of Prayer on Lent:

*Listen and Pray along - Allegri: Miserere:

*The goofiest Lenten video ever is by Nick Alexander (done to the song "King of Pain" by The Police) - This Time of Forty Days:


Rebekah said...

My husband & I are converting this Easter (woo-hoo!). I was given to understand that pregnant/nursing mothers are also not required to fast. I am both pregnant and nursing, and I know that if I ate only the small meals/snacks that fall under fasting, I'd get very sick. Could you clarify? Are pregnant/nursing mothers required to fast or to abstain from meat?

Monica said...

I'm a newish convert (Easter vigil 2009), and I still had a couple of questions regarding Lenten practices. You cleared them all up for me, so thank you! I really appreciated this post; very useful. :)

priest's wife said...

Rebeka- no, you don't need to fast while pregnant and/or nursing- offer something else up to God that will not disrupt the baby's growth.
God bless!

priest's wife said...

Marcel- I'll be blogging about Lent and the differences with the Byzantine rite (we start on Monday before Ash Wednesday, for Mardi Gras for us)- I know your foucs is Roman-rite, but I hope to send you a link when I have a good post...lots of great info here!

therese rita said...

Here's a post by a Jesuit telling us that "Lent is our time to rebel!"

Amy Kinney said...

I've been looking for something, maybe you've found it already. :) I've seen lent crosses and candles for the table. I assume there are some prayers that go with it?? Do you recommend this kind of activity? If so, do you know where to find good information on it?

I guess we're just looking for a good family activity. Our oldest is 2, so participation is minimal. :)

Thanks for all the resources and information!

Kristen B said...

I linked to your wonderful post from both the FB NFP organization page (!/pages/Natural-Family-Planning/93015442431) and the FB NFP group page (

Thank you for your wonderful page, and I hope to be an Aggie, soon!

Raymond said...

You have offered a valuable and most interesting page. Here are three suggestions. Think about becoming an addict to the Liturgy of the Hours as I have. Second, take a minute to pray for our Muslim brothers as they go through these difficult times for their societies (not as easy as it should be). Consider making for yourself a ten bead bracelet on strong string and wear it as a reminder to say the rosary daily if you can. I am impressed that many Muslims always have their prayer beads, a habit learned from Christians. We learned it from the Jews. God bless us all. Ray Ryan

The Frat Pack + Me said...

This is a wonderful post! I hope it is okay, but I am going to link you :)

joan said...

BHG said...

Something I have discovered is that Lenten practice can be carried over to the rest of the year. I started daily mass as a lenten practice, and now I go to daily mass all year. The same with abstaining from meat on Friday, a daily rosary..consider taking on something that you will then maintain!