Lent is early this year and it definitely took me by surprise that we are already here. The odd part about this year is that this year Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent lands on February 14th , St. Valentine's Day, and in the middle of the Chinese New Yea while Easter Sunday, lands on April 1st, April Fool's Day. If you want a good laugh, do a quick search on Catholic memes for Lent this year. You're bound to find a few good ones.
I remember back during the youth households, the brothers would want to get the prayer meetings over as quickly as possible so that we could fellowship over Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Gamecube and play each other in the Yu-gi-oh trading card game. We would ended up staying at our coordinator's house for much longer than the household itself. So for Lent we ended up giving up both of them. It was a tough Lent but we were able to focus more on the Lord during our household. The highlights of those Lents where when we would have the Adoration right after Holy Thursday mass and we would pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet and sing praises to the Lord while we kept our vigil. Those moments in adoration really made giving up stuff worth it since all we could think about was "Who needs all that when the Lord is right here?"
So now we come to Lent 2018 and the Church calls us to do three very simple things:
The Church calls us to deepen our prayer Lent. Just as Jesus went into the desert before he began his public ministry, we need to give God the the time to come into our hearts and make us new. We can kick start our Lenten prayer by attending Mass on Ash Wednesday and receiving the ashes as a sign of repentance. The priest or other minister will remind us to “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” reminding us of the Lord's proclamation of the Gospel during his public ministry. Alternatively we may hear the words "Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return" reminding us of how frail and weak we are and in need of God for our very existence.
Throughout the world, the Church will celebrate its liturgies to reflect the season. In Mass we bury the Alleluia until the day of the Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Many parishes will do the Stations of the Cross every Friday, or have additional times for Confession, Adoration, and programs to deepen our prayer life.
Many people will take up a discipline of prayer such as going to Mass more often, praying the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, a Marian Consecration or some sort daily prayer.
How am I praying more to the Lord?
Fast (and Abstain)
We are called to detach ourselves from worldly things to remind ourselves that God is the essential and most important in our lives.
For those of us age 14-59, the Church requires those who are physically able to fast from foods Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. That means one meal for the entire day and if needed two smaller meals that do not equal full meal.
For those of us age 14 and older, the Church requires us to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent. (CIC - Code of Canon Law, 1249 -1253).
In addition, many people will give up something for Lent to help them let go of necessary baggage or things they enjoy in order such as internet, social media, video games, alcoholic beverages. By letting go of things you enjoy you give yourself a reminder that your true joy does not come from these things, but to the God who provides for us in more ways than we can ever understand.
How am I fasting from things to give God more focus in my life?
Just as we are called to detach ourselves from worldly things, the Church calls us to give our time, talent, and treasure to others.
Many will take on works of service or donate more their local parishes or other Catholic charity programs. In service we remember, the Lord's words "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). Some may even help their family or friends out more with chores as away giving themselves to others.
How are I giving myself to God and others?
It is so easy to fall into laziness or scrupulosity during Lent. It is so easy to get caught up doing more and more things only to fail a few weeks or even days into the season. But we cannot forget the reason why we do all this. We who share in the passion and death with the Lord, will also share in His Resurrection.
For more information about Lent: