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Why is Lent a Penitential Season?

Why is Lent a Penitential Season?

By Fr. Bill Van Wagner, Parochial Vicar

During the Lenten season, the Church asks us to take up three particular practices to highlight the important significance of this penitential season: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. While those three things ought to be part of our ordinary lives as Christians, the season of Lent provides an opportunity for us to make a stronger commitment to the Lord and His Church.

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving

To fast means to abstain from something good. It is important to note that fasting doesn’t simply mean giving something up. To give up stealing, for instance, is not fasting. It is a turning away from sin in order to grow in virtue — something that we should do during Lent and always. Rather, when we fast, we give up something that is good, something that brings us pleasure or gives contentment, in order to remind ourselves that our ultimate satisfaction is to be found in God alone.

Almsgiving is the practice of giving to others in charity. Empowered by the love of God, we imitate Christ who gave everything for us. To give to another out of love means to give not from our surplus, but from our need. We aren’t called to be charitable only when we are prosperous, but to be charitable in all times and places.

The season of Lent further calls us to commit more time to the Lord in prayer. Through prayer, we step out of the busyness of the world and enter into the eternity of God. We set aside our time, worries, and burdens and for a brief moment raise our minds and hearts to God. During Lent, when we commit to additional time of prayer, we are imitating Christ who spent 40 days in the desert conversing with His Father.

Things To Do for Lent

We recently surveyed some of our parishioners to see what special practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving they were doing this Lent. Some have chosen to give up alcohol and sweets for Lent. Others are giving up various forms of media, such as television, social media, and movies. Regarding prayer, one parishioner chose to keep a daily prayer journal throughout Lent. Another decided to read a spiritual book during their lunch break from work, rather than other things. A few folks noted their desire to pray a daily Rosary during Lent. Lastly, many of our parishioners have committed to supporting the “Feed My Sheep” project, the Meadowood Food Pantry, and St. Vincent de Paul.

Finally, Lent is a perfect time for us to renew our commitment to repentance through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In truth, there is no better way to prepare for the Resurrection of Christ than to go to Confession. Many of the parishioners surveyed indicated the intention to go to Confession more often during the Lenten season. Thankfully, with our new schedule, it is easier than ever to go to Confession at St. Maria Goretti.

Through these Lenten practices, we pray that the Lord would spark conversion in our minds and hearts, in order that we be fully prepared to celebrate the joy of the Resurrection at Easter.

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