About Lent

The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, by Peter Breughel, 1559

It takes some doing to keep the seasons of the Church year in the midst of our secular culture. Lent is almost upon us. Are you ready? To be truly immersed in the season of Lent is the fruit of community effort as well as personal endeavor. Yet even in our parishes, we sometimes need reminding that the school year or the program calendar are not the essential way we mark time. We need to treasure the seasons of the liturgical year.

There is a free download about Lent, over at Living the Eucharist, that I’d like to share with you as a resource for your own reflection, or to use with groups in your parish. Its sections are: The Purpose of Lent; Lent and the Liturgy; Lent and the Christian Life; Lent and Devotions; Lent in Secret; and the Relationship of Lent to Easter and the Easter Season. It is also available in Spanish. Living the Eucharist also has a free download about Lent for teens. (Full disclosure: I am the author of these resources!)

I also wanted to share something that emerged for me in writing these, namely: the seldom-cited Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2001) is a wonderful document! (You’ll see that I quote from it several times.) I recommend it to you as well.


  1. I used to have a poster of this painting. When I put it up on my wall I wondered: “Why does it say “The Fight between Carnival and Lent“? I don’t see any fight. It must be a typo.” I took a black pen and carefully wrote a capital “N” on top of the “F” of “Fight”. “The Night between Carnival and Lent.” Of course! Now that made sense!

    Twenty years later, today I learn that I had been wrong all along.

  2. Rita, thank you. It’s funny that you should mention the Directory, as I just discovered it recently while preparing to teach a class on devotional practices. What a rich history we have! It amazes me that we have explored so little of it.

    The liturgical year reveals new wonders at every turn, and I am grateful for all of its seasons. I look forward to Lent, although I continue to find that my own plan is never as complete as the adventures the Spirit has in store for me. Blessings to you in this sacred time!

    1. Amen! The liturgical year certainly does unfold wonder and grace at every turn. I started reading Thomas J. Talley’s “The Origins of the Liturgical Year.” Part of my lenten reading will be Part Three in that book–“The Process of Conversion.”

    2. “…my own plan is never as complete as the adventures the Spirit has in store for me.”

      Thank you, Maureen. An excellent thought! And a blessed Lent to you too.

  3. Although in no way did we celebrate the Season of Septuagesima in our Ordinary Form Mass which we predominantly celebrate in our parish, the enrichment of the Extraordinary Form which we celebrate once a month was made known in my bulletin letter so that the parish could use the three week period prior to Ash Wednesday to prepare for the Holy Season of Lent. I’ve asked our laity as a part of the ascetic practices they choose in terms of fasting, prayer and alms-giving to read Humanae Vitae, register to vote and reflect upon the following paragraph from Lumen Gentium:
    “It is the special vocation of the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will. They live in the world, in each and every one of the world’s occupations and callings and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life—. There they are called by God to contribute to the sanctification of the world from within, like leaven, in the spirit of the Gospel, by fulfilling their own particular duties.”
    I’m also asking them to reflect upon Catholic Orthodoxy as it concerns prayer and the active life–the law of prayer is the law of belief and Orthodox belief (right belief) leads to ortho-praxis, (orthodox or right practice/action of one’s faith in the world). Of course this is all based upon the two greatest commandments, love of God and love of neighbor, charity, in other words, in word, writing, thought and action.

  4. “Yet even in our parishes, we sometimes need reminding that the school year or the program calendar are not the essential way we mark time. We need to treasure the seasons of the liturgical year”.

    This is a particularly important insight due to the fact that in many cases the school calendar rules. This year Ask Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent fall during “Presidents Week.” Schools are closed. Therefore many people are vacationing. This, unfortunately takes people away from the parish. The challenge: teach and invite people to enter more deeply into the seasons of the Liturgical Year so that they could never imagine being anywhere else than their parish during this sacred time.

    1. Sadly, spring break in our public schools and our Catholic schools to follow the public school calendar occurs this year during Holy Week, which means a goodly number of our people will be on vacation elsewhere and not in their home parish–I hate when that happens. Even worse though, in Augusta “Master’s Week” is always the first full week of April which means on occasion, Holy Week falls during that fiercely party week for Catholics and others in the city. Oh well.

  5. Your Lenten download is beautifully done, Rita! Perhaps I can suggest to the pastor that a link be provided on our parish website! Thank you1

    1. Linda, thank you! What a great idea to link the essay to your parish website.

      A blessed Lent to you and your parish!

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