Lent is a season of penance, reflection and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Add an intention to our Lenten Prayer Tree, and pray also for others and their intentions.
‘Forgiveness of our sins is not something we can give ourselves...The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament of healing...I tell you, each time we go to confession, God embraces us. God rejoices! Let us go forward on this road. May God bless you!’ (at a general audience in 2014)
The English word ‘Lent’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word Lencten, meaning ‘Spring’. In other languages (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish cuaresma) the word comes from the Latin, Quadragesima – a period of 40 days. In the Christian tradition, the 40 days is understood to refer to a time of intense prayer and preparation; we remember the biblical stories of Noah and the flood of 40 days, the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness and Christ’s 40-day fast in the desert in preparation for his earthly ministry.
Penance arises from the Lord’s call to conversion and repentance and is an essential part of all genuine Christian living:
Lent is the traditional season for renewal and penance but Catholics also observe each Friday of the year as days of penance. The link between Friday and penance is extremely ancient and is even reflected in the Irish word for Friday – An Aoine (the fast).
Some suggestions on observing Friday Penance during Lent are:
‘Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.’
Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us to develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolise penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.