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10 Things to Remember in Lent

Feb 22nd, 2012

As Catholics enter the Lenten Season, Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin, chairman of the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), offers "10 Things to Remember for Lent."

1. Remember the formula. The Church offers easy to remember numerical formulas: 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 3 persons in the Trinity. For Lent, the Church universally almost repeats a sloganóPrayer, Fasting and Almsgivingóas three things to work on during the season.

2. Itís a time of prayer. Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we go on a journey, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.

3. Itís a time to fast. With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast. And maybe thatís why it gets all the attention. "What are you giving up for Lent? Hotdogs? Beer? Jelly beans?" Itís almost a game for some of us, but fasting is actually a form of penance, which helps us turn away from sin and toward Christ.

4. Itís a time to work on discipline. The 40 days of Lent are also a good time to work on personal discipline. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive. "Iím going to exercise more. Iím going to pray more. Iím going to be nicer to my family, friends and coworkers."

5. Itís about dying to yourself. The more serious side of Lenten discipline is that itís about more than self-control Ė itís about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them die. The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent, and we join in these mysteries by suffering, dying with Christ and being resurrected in a purified form.

6. Donít do too much. Itís tempting to make Lent some ambitious period of personal reinvention, but itís best to keep it simple and focused. Thereís a reason the Church works on these mysteries year after year. We spend our entire lives growing closer to God. Donít try to cram it all in one Lent. Thatís a recipe for failure.

7. Lent reminds us of our weakness. Of course, even when we set simple goals for ourselves during Lent, we still have trouble keeping them. When we fast, we realize weíre all just one meal away from hunger. In both cases, Lent shows us our weakness. This can be painful, but recognizing how helpless we are makes us seek Godís help with renewed urgency and sincerity.

8. Be patient with yourself. When weíre confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated. "What a bad person I am!" But thatís the wrong lesson. God is calling us to be patient and to see ourselves as he does, with unconditional love.

9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. Itís about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; itís about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of Godís unconditional love.

10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.

For more Lenten resources, click here

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