With Ash Wednesday this week, the season of Lent is once again upon us.
As Catholics, we know Lent as a time of penitence, fasting and abstinence in anticipation of Holy Week and Easter—the holiest season of the Christian calendar.
Lent should be a time, as well, of prayer and reflection, a time for each of us to deepen or renew our connection to our faith and to God. We can pray more often, we can ask for forgiveness for our transgressions and sins, we can forgive those who have hurt us or sinned against us.
Even if it’s not your usual practice, the weeks of Lent can be a good time to become more involved in parish activities and other Church events that will raise awareness of God and faith in your life.
We encourage all who are able to participate in devotions like Stations of the Cross, and to attend Lenten programs such as missions, lectures, discussion groups and Scripture study sessions that are widely available throughout the archdiocese, including some at open-to-the-public events at Catholic colleges and universities.
Check Catholic New York, parish bulletins and online listings for schedules. Television programming also tends toward Christian-themed films and discussions during Lent, with the higher quality offerings providing another way to reflect on the faith.
Those who cannot easily get out to attend events at church or elsewhere—the homebound elderly or infirm and their caregivers, for instance, or parents of young children—could make the daily reading of Scripture a practice during Lent, a practice that can easily become a daily routine for the rest of the year.
We especially urge those carrying burdens that hurt themselves or others—addictions, infidelities and other secrets—to make a special effort to begin the healing that can set them free, bringing them back to God’s love. Daily prayer and the privacy of confession could be the first steps on the road to recovery and reconciliation with God and loved ones.
Many parishes will have extended hours for confession during Lent, and Reconciliation Monday will be offered in parish churches throughout the archdiocese on March 26, with confessions available from 3 to 9 p.m.
Pope Francis, in his message for Lent this year, speaks also of the importance of giving to others, especially the poor, using the traditional word “almsgiving.”
“I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself,” the pope said. “When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children.”
The Lenten season is relatively short—just 40 days in all.
Despite its relative brevity, it’s a season in which much can be accomplished in our spiritual lives. We can become closer to God and one another, we can start a journey toward healing any burdens we carry, we can look forward to the awakening that is Easter.
Pope Francis, at the start of his Lenten message, said, “Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.”
Indeed, it does.