What Is Lent Anyway?
I am Catholic. What does that mean, especially this time of year? This time of year, is the Lenten Season, beginning on February 14 as Ash Wednesday, and ending three days before Easter. Ash Wednesday is the day after Mardi Gras’ Fat Tuesday. This year, Easter is Sunday, April 1. The Lenten Season lasts six-weeks, no more, no less. Lent is explained through an informative video in this link.
Growing up, preparing for Easter Sunday was an exciting time filled with fun activities such as coloring eggs, finding Easter baskets, and enjoying family gatherings that included a wonderful traditional dinner. Our baskets filled with jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, marshmallow Peeps and a surprise toy, made the lengthy search worth it. I can remember searching the entire house: inside closets, under beds and tables, and even inside the washer and dryer. Once found, I would find someplace where I could ravish the goodies and feel thankful for all the Easter Bunny had provided. Fridays were special, because it was Fish Fry for dinner. What is Friday during lent without a fish fry? Who knew life could move forward without fish on Fridays? Not me. It is still a tradition in my family to have fish on Fridays, whether it is Lent or not. Some traditions are not to be broken.
As I got older, Lent became more than the physical activities that lead to the gifts from the Easter Bunny. I began to understand a true meaning for Lent and created a personal journey with my religion to find that the bunny was not the real meaning of Easter. In my family, religious beliefs became not only what was celebrated and practiced, they became a huge part of me. When I explain to others that being Catholic is not just the religion and specific rituals that I practice, I describe that it is who I am as a person. Catholic is a way of being for me, not a religion I was baptized into nor one that I follow to continue a family tradition.
My personal journey through Lent has brought me through the process of prayer, repentance, and fasting. Each aspect of this process has contributed to my inner growth as a person who wants to be the best I can be for my family, community, and my inner spiritual self. My relationship with God is deepened each Lenten season. Reflection is also a key piece of my journey since I am spending six conscious weeks of devotion to improve and cleanse my life of toxicity. My goal in this article is to share the meaning of Lent with its expectations of following rules related to fasting, attending Mass weekly to share in the tradition of the Stations of the Cross, and the celebration of this cleansing process through the celebration of Easter dinner with family.
Life gets hectic and I get bogged down with the challenges that life throws my way. Through my participation in Lent and all the rituals, I am afforded the opportunity to grow in positive ways. Lent allows a slowing down of life and those arrows aimed at my head. I make a sincere effort to enjoy the inner reflection, the penance of giving up something and the prayers of thankfulness for this wonderful opportunity. Even though this is a religious opportunity and an annual aspect of my Catholic calendar, it can be a wonderful and hopeful opportunity for those not joined in any religious community. Taking that time, that season of silence, to shut out the noise from a busy and racing world, is a gift to oneself.
If you want to learn more about Lent and all it offers, there are many sites available to learn more about reflection, repentance, and prayer. It is not only a Catholic thing, it is a people thing, and a selfless gift thing. When was the last time you gave yourself a gift of growth or a gift to slow down the world and its many restless options of noise? Check out the following information about Lent and growth, along with what is the best Lent ever.
This season, I gave up all ‘wants’, things that were not necessary to my ordinary life. Of course, these were things that I added to my life routinely. The penance was determining whether they were necessary to a good life. The lesson I learn from this penance is that I can choose these ‘wants’, that the corporate advertizers that bombard me with these things and tell me I need them, really isn’t true. I feel and gain back control over these choices. I have learned that what I truly need does not come from a store. Instead, the needs are family, friends, community, and for me, life as a Catholic.