“What are you giving up for Lent?” Ah yes, it’s that time of year again and that is the question I am sure to hear frequently. Many Catholics are still stuck in their childhood understanding of giving up something for lent (chocolates, soda, or some other food item) for no other reason than ‘hey, it’s Lent and it’s what we do.’ I thought this same way for most of my life and it has only been during the last few years that I have taken the time to begin to educate myself on what Lent truly is.
The name Lent is taken from the Old English word for spring, lencten. The word Lent (much like the word Easter) is only used in English speaking countries; most other languages use a word that is derived from the Latin term Quadragesima (the forty days”). In Spanish it’s cuaresma, Portuguese- quaresma, French- carême, Italian- quaresima, so on and so forth.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. –CCC540
During this time we are all called to fast, give alms, and to pray more. By fasting we give up something. That might be the television, internet, some type of food, a vice, or something else that we enjoy doing. By giving alms we are giving something to others. That might be money, possessions, or time to a charity, or some other way in which we can give of ourselves above and beyond what we do the rest of the year. By praying we are “lifting our hearts to the Lord,” and I know that we could all spend a bit more time in prayer than we do on a regular basis.
Earlier today I found an entry at the USCCB’s blog written by Msgr. Richard Hilgartner that I highly recommend you take a moment to read for yourself. It can be found here.