The crowd cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road,
and kept crying out and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21).
“Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over forty 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” (Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Wisconsin).
The three fundamental actions of Lent
are these: to fast, to pray, and to give alms.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of reduced meals and no meat for Catholics; and all Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from meat. Here is complete information about these obligations
for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It is common also for Catholics to "give up for Lent" some pleasure or luxury, and to share with others (as "alms") the money that might have have been spent on oneself. Why all this deprivation?
"At the beginning of Jesus' ministry in the Gospel of Matthew, we read, 'When He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He became hungry.' Hunger is that state in which we realize our dependence on something else—when we face the ultimate question: On what does my life depend? Satan tempted both Adam and Christ, saying: Eat, for your hunger is proof that you depend entirely on food, that your life is in food. Adam believed and ate. Christ said, 'Man does NOT live by bread alone.' This liberates us from total dependence on food, on matter, on the world. Thus, for the Christian, fasting is a means by which to recover his true spiritual nature."
(Fr. Daniel Merz, USCCB).
Jesus replied, "The first commandment is this: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength'"
Lent is a time when Catholics take pains to do as Jesus said, and to engage heart, soul, mind, and strength in their relationship with God. Many will attend daily Mass, or read and meditate daily on a passage from Scripture or from the Catechism, or say a Rosary, alone or with others, or take part in Eucharistic Adoration or Stations of the Cross.
The Stations of the Cross began with pilgrims to Jerusalem retracing the final journey of Jesus to Calvary. Today this communal prayer is a deeply loved Lenten practice, reflecting on the fourteen stations found as statuary or icons in almost every church and in some outdoor settings. Here is a schedule of Stations of the Cross in two dozen archdiocesan parishes.
For reading and mediating upon Scripture, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops offers this weekly program
. Other opportunities to engage the mind along with the heart and soul are seasonal lectures and presentations. Examples are the Lenten Series of Speakers
each Saturday at St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco, and the Tuesday night Lenten Lecture Series
at St. Rita Church in Fairfax.
"And the second commandment is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'"
During Lent, we are asked to focus more intently on "almsgiving," which means donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity. As one of the three pillars of Lenten practice, almsgiving is "a witness to fraternal charity" and "a work of justice pleasing to God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church
, no. 2462). Many Catholics increase their donations to charities at this season, or volunteer in service organizations, or visit those who are ill, neglected, lonely, or otherwise in need. Many parishes have opportunities for service, and this brochure from Catholic Charities of San Francisco
offers an array of ways to be involved in service to our neighbors.
Lent is a season filled with special liturgies, activities, programs, and events--with opportunities to deepen faith, gain insight, do good, and draw closer to God and to one another in Christian community. Here is a sample of the special Lenten offerings
of 30 of our parishes. Each of the more than 90 parishes in the archdiocese has a rich array of Lenten offerings. For details, locate any parish instantly with our FIND A PARISH