This past week, the Church recognized the holy day of Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of Lent. The forty days prior to Easter, Lent is normally thought to be a waiting period before the Resurrection. However, the season has deep biblical roots and offers Catholics a period of reflection and spiritual preparation. Catholics are called to practice prayer, fasting, and abstinence during Lent in order to grow in faith and grace.
Lent is more than a waiting period; it is a season filled with symbolism and tradition. On Ash Wednesday, Catholics receive ashes on their foreheads as a symbol of their mortality and sinfulness.
“For you are dust and to dust you shall return” is a humbling and sobering reminder that life on earth is temporary. The ashes are given in the shape of a cross, as a reminder of Jesus’ death and
The practice of Lent can be linked back to the Gospel of Matthew. After Jesus was baptized, he was sent into the desert by the Holy Spirit. For forty days, Jesus fasted and prayed, but was also tempted by Satan. Even though he did face temptations, Jesus’ discipline and sacrifice during this period allowed him to find clarity and focus for his future ministry. Likewise, Lent is a forty-day period for Catholics to engage in acts of spiritual self-discipline, which serves them well for the rest of the year. Through acts of charity and faith, Catholics are better prepared to encounter Jesus at the Resurrection. Similar to how retreats can recharge the soul, Lent is a time to take a step back and recharge the faith.
One source of renewal during Lent is prayer. Prayer is one of the most important pillars of Lent, because it is through prayer that one can develop a stronger personal relationship with God. This can be accomplished in many ways, usually through a planned schedule. Going to daily Mass, praying the rosary, or offering up a few worries and concerns during the day are some ways to integrate more prayer into one’s life. At Boston College, students are blessed to be surrounded by an abundance of prayer opportunities, including Mass in one of the many chapels, Taizé prayer, and the Examen. By attempting to deepen one’s relationship with God, only good things can happen.
Another source of renewal during Lent is fasting. One of the more well-known practices, fasting allows Catholics to simplify their lives in order to focus more on God. By giving up sources of pleasure during Lent, Catholics become more in-tune with Jesus’ suffering and are able to become more disciplined. By removing activities that clutter one’s life, one is able to simplify life and focus on what is meaningful. In addition to fasting, Catholics also participate in abstinence from meat on Fridays.
The final source of renewal during Lent is service to others. Similar to the concept of fasting, service allows Catholics to focus less on oneself and more on the needs of others. All people are created in the image of God, so by serving the poor, one serves Christ. Some actions of service are donating to a charity, volunteering at a community organization, and participating in random acts of kindness. As college students, random acts of kindness are vital to welcoming in those on campus who are ostracized. Through love and kindness for the “poor in spirit” on campus, Boston College students can make our campus a place of love and Christ for all. Lent is a season of renewal- in community, heart, and soul.