Some Ideas for the Lenten Season
Lent is about to start. On this Wednesday, March 6, 2019, the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, which is a day of abstinence and fasting. Abstinence is simply put just another word for ”no meat” (abstaining from eating meat), and fasting means ”eating less”. Together they suggest to us that it would be good to be less consuming and more interested in one’s spiritual well-being.
Every year, the Bishop publishes a Letter for Lent, in which he reiterates some obligations, or observances, and advice for the Faithful. It is a concrete expression of how we Catholics should live during the season of Lent in order to be well prepared for the three holy days of Easter and the Resurrection of Our Lord.
What should we do, or not do?
In his letter, the Bishop reminds us that in 2019, Ash Wednesday is on March 6, and Good Friday on April 19.
Then he explains what abstinence is: The faithful are obliged (after turning 14) to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all other Fridays (unless a sollemnity). In the Nordic countries, at least, one can also do something else in stead:
- abstain from some other food or drink,
- abstain from alcohol, smoking or some other enjoyment,
- take part in a caritative activity (e.g. with Caritas),
- take part in a Mass, adoration, way of the Cross, or some other form of liturgical celebration,
- or pay special attention to praying together as a family.
Fasting, on the other hand, is obligatory to all 18-59 year old Catholics just on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the rule of thumb being that one should eat only one full meal a day, and at other times together less than that.
Finally, the Bishop reminds us that there is a general obligation of doing penance on all Fridays but especially during the whole Season of Lent. Good penitential practices can include prayer, denying oneself, and taking part in charitable work (e.g. by giving money saved from eating less to the Diocesan Lenten Collection).
Lenten observances are rather useless if our hearts and souls are not co-operating. Abstinence – in any form –, just as much as fasting and penance, only makes sense, if we accept its inner meaning and reasoning and try to follow the rules in order to become better Christians, better persons and disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, the Church is there to save our souls: to bring us to everlasting life. Looking at these observances from this perspective, the Lenten season, then, is a most suitable time to prepare ourselves for what is coming. Sacramentally speaking, Lent is an opportune time to make a good Confession, and to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner thus getting closer to God.
My advice is that following these Lenten observances, starting this Wednesday, we would try to interiorize the reasons and meaning of these practices, and go back to the roots of our beautiful Faith: Creation, History of Salvation, the life of Jesus, and especially the mystery of suffering, death and eternal life.
Maybe, by meditating these great moments and God’s omnipotence, we start to see new horizons, a new deeper purpose in our lives, and to truly empty ourselves from everything that makes us less human, less loving, less good. Only thus can we become what we ought to be: men and women made in the image and likeness of God.