Lent 2021

 
Lent began on Ash Wednesday (17 February 2021).....
 
This is the annual occasion when we can focus on our faith, the way we live it and the way we might change our lives in the light of the faith. Read and view our reflections on Lent below to help you prepare throughout. 

   

We will add weekly reflections for Lent each week, below.

Holy Week

Holy Week is an important time for Christians throughout the world. Holy Week, the final week of Lent, begins on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Holy Week is a time when Catholics gather to remember and participate in the Passion of Jesus Christ. The Passion was the final period of Christ’s life in Jerusalem. It spans from when He arrived in Jerusalem to when He was crucified. Read reflections and quotes and follow Jesus' journey each day of the Holy Week, below.

Palm Sunday

Fifth week of Lent

Fourth week of Lent

Third week of Lent

Second week of Lent

First week of Lent

Lent and Easter message from Fr Brendan Grady, O.Carm

Fr Brendan Grady wrote the recent Spring newsletter for all the friends of Saint Jude, read his reflections on Lent and Easter, here

Lent Message from Pope Francis, 2021

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mt 20:18).

Lent: a Time for Renewing Faith, Hope and Love.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Jesus revealed to his disciples the deepest meaning of his mission when he told them of his passion, death and resurrection, in fulfilment of the Father’s will. He then called the disciples to share in this mission for the salvation of the world.

In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. At the Easter vigil, we will renew our baptismal promises and experience rebirth as new men and women by the working of the Holy Spirit. This Lenten journey, like the entire pilgrimage of the Christian life, is even now illumined by the light of the resurrection, which inspires the thoughts, attitudes and decisions of the followers of Christ.

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (cf. Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion. The path of poverty and self-denial (fasting), concern and loving care for the poor (almsgiving), and childlike dialogue with the Father (prayer) make it possible for us to live lives of sincere faith, living hope and effective charity.

1. Faith calls us to accept the truth and testify to it before God and all our brothers and sisters.

In this Lenten season, accepting and living the truth revealed in Christ means, first of all, opening our hearts to God’s word, which the Church passes on from generation to generation. This truth is not an abstract concept reserved for a chosen intelligent few. Instead, it is a message that all of us can receive and understand thanks to the wisdom of a heart open to the grandeur of God, who loves us even before we are aware of it. Christ himself is this truth. By taking on our humanity, even to its very limits, he has made himself the way – demanding, yet open to all – that leads to the fullness of life.

Fasting, experienced as a form of self-denial, helps those who undertake it in simplicity of heart to rediscover God’s gift and to recognize that, created in his image and likeness, we find our fulfilment in him. In embracing the experience of poverty, those who fast make themselves poor with the poor and accumulate the treasure of a love both received and shared. In this way, fasting helps us to love God and our neighbour, inasmuch as love, as Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches, is a movement outwards that focuses our attention on others and considers them as one with ourselves (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 93).

Lent is a time for believing, for welcoming God into our lives and allowing him to “make his dwelling” among us (cf. Jn 14:23). Fasting involves being freed from all that weighs us down – like consumerism or an excess of information, whether true or false – in order to open the doors of our hearts to the One who comes to us, poor in all things, yet “full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14): the Son of God our Saviour.

2. Hope as “living water” enabling us to continue our journey.

The Samaritan woman at the well, whom Jesus asks for a drink, does not understand what he means when he says that he can offer her “living water” (Jn 4:10). Naturally, she thinks that he is referring to material water, but Jesus is speaking of the Holy Spirit whom he will give in abundance through the paschal mystery, bestowing a hope that does not disappoint. Jesus had already spoken of this hope when, in telling of his passion and death, he said that he would “be raised on the third day” (Mt 20:19). Jesus was speaking of the future opened up by the Father’s mercy. Hoping with him and because of him means believing that history does not end with our mistakes, our violence and injustice, or the sin that crucifies Love. It means receiving from his open heart the Father’s forgiveness.

In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for his creation which we have often mistreated (cf. Laudato Si’, 32-33; 43-44). Saint Paul urges us to place our hope in reconciliation: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). By receiving forgiveness in the sacrament that lies at the heart of our process of conversion, we in turn can spread forgiveness to others. Having received forgiveness ourselves, we can offer it through our willingness to enter into attentive dialogue with others and to give comfort to those experiencing sorrow and pain. God’s forgiveness, offered also through our words and actions, enables us to experience an Easter of fraternity.

In Lent, may we be increasingly concerned with “speaking words of comfort, strength, consolation and encouragement, and not words that demean, sadden, anger or show scorn” (Fratelli Tutti, 223). In order to give hope to others, it is sometimes enough simply to be kind, to be “willing to set everything else aside in order to show interest, to give the gift of a smile, to speak a word of encouragement, to listen amid general indifference” (ibid., 224).

Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission. Hence the need to pray (cf. Mt 6:6) and, in secret, to encounter the Father of tender love.

To experience Lent in hope entails growing in the realization that, in Jesus Christ, we are witnesses of new times, in which God is “making all things new” (cf. Rev 21:1-6). It means receiving the hope of Christ, who gave his life on the cross and was raised by God on the third day, and always being “prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls [us] to account for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

3. Love, following in the footsteps of Christ, in concern and compassion for all,is the highest expression of our faith and hope.

Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion.

“‘Social love’ makes it possible to advance towards a civilization of love, to which all of us can feel called. With its impulse to universality, love is capable of building a new world. No mere sentiment, it is the best means of discovering effective paths of development for everyone” (Fratelli Tutti, 183).

Love is a gift that gives meaning to our lives. It enables us to view those in need as members of our own family, as friends, brothers or sisters. A small amount, if given with love, never ends, but becomes a source of life and happiness. Such was the case with the jar of meal and jug of oil of the widow of Zarephath, who offered a cake of bread to the prophet Elijah (cf. 1 Kings 17:7-16); it was also the case with the loaves blessed, broken and given by Jesus to the disciples to distribute to the crowd (cf. Mk 6:30-44). Such is the case too with our almsgiving, whether small or large, when offered with joy and simplicity.

To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In these days of deep uncertainty about the future, let us keep in mind the Lord’s word to his Servant, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you” (Is 43:1). In our charity, may we speak words of reassurance and help others to realize that God loves them as sons and daughters.

“Only a gaze transformed by charity can enable the dignity of others to be recognized and, as a consequence, the poor to be acknowledged and valued in their dignity, respected in their identity and culture, and thus truly integrated into society” (Fratelli Tutti, 187).

Dear brothers and sisters, every moment of our lives is a time for believing, hoping and loving. The call to experience Lent as a journey of conversion, prayer and sharing of our goods, helps us – as communities and as individuals – to revive the faith that comes from the living Christ, the hope inspired by the breath of the Holy Spirit and the love flowing from the merciful heart of the Father.

May Mary, Mother of the Saviour, ever faithful at the foot of the cross and in the heart of the Church, sustain us with her loving presence. May the blessing of the risen Lord accompany all of us on our journey towards the light of Easter.

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 11 November 2020, the Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours

Prayer in Lent

In the Oxford Dictionary the definition of Lent is: the period preceding Easter, which is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence and runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. 
 
In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it denotes the liturgical season of forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Paschal Mystery (Easter Triduum). Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church's liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer.
 
So what do we do during Lent?  The first thing is Prayer.  Of course all of us pray as part of our Christian lives but the idea of prayer in Lent is to take a serious look at our prayer life. Like an engine our prayer life needs to be serviced every so often; it needs tinkering with to improve its ‘performance’.  Maybe we need to look at a different form of prayer to the one we have been using for the last few years and see if something new may give vigour our prayer. Or maybe we need to try some periods of just silently being with God.  I am not saying that the way that we all pray needs to be thrown out and replaced but just that sometimes an added dimension or facet to our prayer life may open us to a something fresh.  Saint Augustine says: Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Give it two wings: fasting and almsgiving; this brings us to the second aspect of Lenten practice:  Fasting.
 
Fasting is the practice refraining from eating between meals and to limit our eating to one full meal and two lighter meals.  This applies to then entire Lenten Season although Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and also abstinence. Abstinence means that we do not eat meat on those days.  Of course these practices do not mean that we give up the tradition of not eating meat on a Friday.  It is not only the Christian Churches that use fasting. Most of the major religions see the benefits of a fast period as a cleansing and a preparation for a religious feast. A number of doctors also recognise the health benefits of fasting and there is now the five day fasting diet.  These advantages of fasting can of course be applied to Christian and especially Lenten fasting but the main purpose of fasting is as a preparation for the celebration of the Easter Triduum and reflects the forty days in the wilderness of Jesus as he prepared for his public ministry. 
 
The third dimension of our Lenten preparation is also mentioned by Saint Augustine and that is Almsgiving. If we go back to the earliest days of the Church, we see almsgiving at the heart of Christian community. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read, “There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need” (4:34-35). Almsgiving was woven into everyday life, a given, a Christian attitude that has since lost some of its edge. Almsgiving is not only for the rich or people who have some extra spending money, but also for those who are poor or are struggling; remember the widow putting her last small coin into the temple collection. All of us are called upon to go outside of our own personal needs and help others during this time, especially during this time, because we are always called to do this as Christians. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in their love with their hearts. So if we cannot give of our treasure, then we can give of our time or talent. 
 
Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving the three pillars of Lent. Pope Francis says of almsgiving:  "In almsgiving one gives something to someone from whom one does not expect to receive anything in return. Gratuitousness should be one of the characteristics of the Christian, who aware of having received everything from God gratuitously, that is, without any merit of his own, learns to give to others freely” (Homily in Basilica of Santa Sabina, Wednesday, 5 March 2014).