What is Lent?

Conversion time

Casulla © Cathopic. Beyond Faith CR

Rafael Mosteyrín, priest, offers this article to learn what Lent is, a time of conversion and preparation for Holy Week.


Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. What is Lent? It is the liturgical time in which Christians prepare for the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. It is proposed to us to listen more to the Word of God, and to attend more to the sacrament of Penance. They are, as always, the 40 days before Palm Sunday.

For those over 18 and under 59, we must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It is about eating only one strong meal a day accompanied, of course, by a light breakfast and a little dinner. From the age of 14 we are asked to abstain from eating meat every Friday of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday. In this way, gratitude to God is demonstrated for his Passion and Death by which we have been saved. It is about giving an answer with prayer, and with life, manifested in these desires for sobriety, in food and in other aspects that one sees appropriate.

The Church always, but more so in Lent, exhorts us to conversion, to break with sin. True conversion, the purpose of no longer sinning, entails avoiding the occasions of sin, breaking its bonds. Only when there is a turning away from sin, man returns to God, he orders his life towards the Creator. He is then free from any slavery, and he is in a position to follow the path proposed by Jesus Christ,

Why is Lent a time of penance? The first words of Christ that Saint Mark records in his Gospel are these: “Do penance.” Lent tells us about mortification and penance because it is the commemoration of the time of prayer and penance that Christ spent in the desert. During Lent, the Church offers a special opportunity to repent of our sins, with a well-prepared confession. It is an especially opportune time to make reparation to God for the offenses we have done to Him, through small sacrifices. This penance, furthermore, purifies the soul, elevates the thought, makes the heart contrite and humiliated, extinguishes the fire of passions and helps us to live holy purity well.

Furthermore, we can offer God something that costs in a spirit of reparation. The Lord asks us for small mortifications that, if lived with perseverance, are very pleasing to Him. Some meal mortifications are traditional, such as delaying the glass of water until the second course, eating more of what you like less and less of what you like more; take the worst fruit; do not eat between meals; Do not drink alcohol, or drink it in more moderation. The meaning of these practices is that they help us grow in the virtue of temperance. In this way we have an easier time praying, and we are not so conditioned by what we feel like. Another type of mortifications are those that are done with the objective that those around us receive some small favor.

The liturgy of Lent, while inviting us to repentance and conversion, reminds us of God’s mercy with the words of the Psalmist: The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and the demonstration of his love for us extends to all of his works. God always listens to requests for forgiveness.

Let’s take this opportunity to prepare a good confession. It is time to recognize what has to change in our lives, to once and for all overcome shame to tell things as they happened. God is willing to forgive us, but he needs us to recognize where we have failed him.

Saint Mary will help us take advantage of this Lenten opportunity to make a good confession. We will improve during this time by trying to do things better than usual, and offering small mortifications throughout the day.