20 Practices to Observe during Lent

Catholic Apologetics #56

(Read: 20 Practices to Observe during Lent Part 2)

“The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe” (Pope Benedict XIV in 1741).

Our Lord tells us, as recorded in Sacred Scripture, “Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).[1] And St. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Savior with the ominous admonition, “Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2).

The primary purpose of Lent, of course, is to help us become truly holy — and we should work toward this goal during Lent by extra prayers, penances, good works, almsgiving, fasting, attendance at Mass and reception of the Sacraments (the chief sources of grace).

The Septuagesima season (the seventeen days which precede Ash Wednesday) is the time in which Holy Mother Church encourages us to plan our Lenten penances and resolutions. We ought to even use this time to ‘ramp’ up our penances so that we will be in ‘full stride’ by the time Lent begins. Many Catholics today neglect to practice Lent to the fullest, in part, because they fail to prepare and plan well for Lent during the Septuagesima season. To aid you in this effort, here are twenty ways to improve your Lent and to observe a more traditional Catholic Lent.

  1. Abstain from Meat for 40 Days

We should all know that Catholics are required to abstain from all meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent. This is the minimum requirement and violation of this law is grave matter.[2] Take this seriously; for if you die without Confession and contrition for this sin, as with any mortal sin, your soul will be damned for all eternity.

Yet, certainly we can do more than the simple minimum practice for Lent. Traditionally, Catholics would fast and partially abstain from meat all days of Lent, except for Fridays (which were full abstinence) and Sundays (which are never considered days of penance). Partial abstinence means eating meat only at the major meal. Some Catholics will maintain the older practice of not only fasting but abstaining entirely from all meat on all 40 days of Lent, since even partial abstinence was a modern mitigation of the traditional fast that our forefathers in the Faith observed.

This Lent, why not resolve to abstain from meat all 40 days? You could even pick up the older custom of abstaining from all animal products (e.g., fish, dairy, eggs, etc.) and observing the strict Lenten abstinence of our ancestors. If you cannot train yourself to say ‘no’ to meat [or eggs or milk], then how can you say ‘no’ to sin?

  1. Fast for 40 Days

On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, all Catholics are bound under pain of mortal sin to fast. Only one normal-sized meal and two smaller snacks (called collations) that do not equal the normal meal are allowed. Eating between meals is prohibited in any fast. This is the minimum required under the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

What should a traditional, pious Catholic do? All days of Lent – except Sundays – are days for us to fast and partially abstain from meat. If you fast all of these days, you will have fasted the 40 Days of Lent, in closer imitation of what Christ did in the desert.[3]

  1. Limit (i.e., Remove) Your Television during Lent

Even if you have not read Television: The Soul at Risk,[4] the television is, by most accounts, an occasion of sin. Limit your television to only a few hours a day for your entire family or — better yet — unplug it all together. Television is a passive activity not only leading to obesity and passivity but allowing indecent speech and dress as well as suggestive dialogue and environments into our very homes.[5] Unplug it for Lent. And seriously consider keeping it unplugged afterward. You may be pleasantly surprised to find yourself more at peace.

  1. Daily Rosary

If you are not praying the Rosary daily, you should be. This was the central request of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 1917, Our Lady told Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco: “Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.” In the apparition on July 13, She requested devotion to Her Immaculate Heart and Communions of reparation on the first Saturday of each month. In the September 13th apparition, the Blessed Mother stressed the importance of the daily Rosary, and in Her final apparition (on October 13), She said, “I am the Lady of the Rosary.” Pray the Rosary daily, and use Lent to start if you are not already doing so.

If you are already praying the Rosary daily, consider praying it more slowly, consider praying it more meditatively, or consider praying more mysteries, even all fifteen decades on a given day. You might also encourage others to pray the Rosary so that the whole family, or a group of friends, or a group at the parish pray together. It would naturally be most laudable to pray the Rosary during a visit to Our Lord in the tabernacle or exposed in the monstrance. All these are means by which we can derive greater grace from the prayer of Our Lady’s Holy Rosary.

  1. Wear the Brown Scapular

If you were not properly invested in the Brown Scapular (or if you are uncertain about it), find a traditional Catholic priest to properly enroll you in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular  Recall that by the constant wearing of the Brown Scapular, Our Lady promises to pray for us at the hour of death. And more than that, She will intercede with God to obtain the graces we need to remain in the state of grace. And if we are in a state of mortal sin, She will intercede for us so that sanctifying grace may be restored to our soul (by us making a good confession) before we die. Our Lady also promises that the Scapular will be “a safeguard in danger.”

While those who wear the Brown Scapular are required to pray daily the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, priests nearly always dispense the faithful to instead simply pray the Rosary daily.

If you lost your Brown Scapular, simply acquire another one (they are readily available online and through The Fatima Center). The Brown Scapular does not have to be blessed before it is worn, unlike most Sacramentals. Consider buying one for a family member who does not regularly wear one.

  1. Saturday Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary

If you don’t already do so on a monthly basis, set aside the next First Saturday that falls during Lent as a time for special reparation and prayers to the Mother of God.


Note: At Our Lady’s Army of Advocates Conference hosted by The Fatima Center in Houston (2019), Mr. David Rodríguez gave a talk on this subject, titled “Sanctifying the Family in Lent by the Light of Fatima.” You can view that conference here on our YouTube channel – or – listen to it in audio format here at The Fatima Center podcast.

[1] Luke 13:3 is one of those excellent scriptural passages one can always check to help evaluate the worthiness of a particular translation. This is because the editors of many bibles have made the conscious effort to eliminate all references to penance, and in particular, of the need for Christians to do penance. The proper translation from the infallible Latin Vulgate is clearly the term ‘penance’ (Latin: pœnitentiam). You can look it up here.

[2] All Catholics should know the three conditions required for a sin to be mortal: [1] grave matter, [2] full knowledge and [3] deliberate (free) consent.

[3] St. Matthew writes: “And when [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards He was hungry” (4:2). It has always been understood that this means Our Lord did not eat anything for forty days and nights.

[4] https://amzn.to/2vRwRAL

[5] In this particular category of “television” we might more broadly refer to many forms of entertainment so popular in our culture today, including movies, television over the internet, and video games, all of which entail the same negative elements described. An excellent practice for Lent is to do away with all TV, movies, video games, entertainment over the Internet, and even all (superfluous) use of the Internet which does not help build up virtue.

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