Our Lord tells us, as recorded in Scripture, "Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). And St. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Saviour with the ominous admonition, "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 3:2).
With regard to prayer, St. Paul tells us to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17). And Our dear Lord advises us, "Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you." (John 16:23). Also He said, "If you abide in me [i.e., "live in Me," or "stay in the state of grace"], and my words abide ["live"] in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7). Further, Our Lord has said, "Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36). And in the Book of Judith we read, "Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers, if you continue with perseverance in fastings and prayers in the sight of the Lord." (Judith 4:11).
Our obligation to do apostolic work, no matter who we are, is seen in the general admonition of St. John the Baptist, ". . .make straight the way of the Lord . . ." (In. 1:23; Is. 40:3). The Church has used this counsel in her Advent liturgy, so we know it applies to all—at least to the extent that all must pray and do penance for the success of the Church's missionary activity, help support it financially—and wherever possible take an active part in the conversion or reconversion of those we know.
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 prayer, penance, good works, almsgiving, attendance at Mass and reception of the Sacraments (the chief sources of grace).
As such, let us consider the following 20 PIOUS PRACTICES FOR CATHOLICS TO PRACTICE DURING LENT:
1. Abstain from Meat
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 a mortal sin and, if you die without Confession and Contrition, for this sin your soul will be damned.
Yet, certainly we can do more than the simple minimum practice for Lent? Traditional Catholics will still fast and partially abstain from meat on all weekdays of Lent unless a 1st Class Feast falls during the week (e.g. 1st Class Feast of St. Joseph on March 19). By partial abstinence, a person is allowed to eat meat only at the major meal.
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, all Catholics are bound under pain of mortal sin to fast. Those between 18 and 59 years of age (Can. 1252), are also bound to fast on these two days . Only one normal-sized meal and two smaller meals that do not equal the normal meal are allowed. Eating between meals, however, is prohibited although fruit juices and milk are allowed. This is the minimum under the current Code of Canon Law.
What should a traditional, pious Catholic do? All days of Lent but Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and 1st Class Feasts 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, as Christ did in the desert.
See laws of fasting and abstinence for more information.
3. Limit (i.e. Remove) your Television During Lent
Even if you have not read Television: The Soul at Risk (and I do highly recommend it), 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 hopes. Unplug it for Lent. And think about keeping it unplugged afterward.
4. Daily Rosary
If you are not praying the daily Rosary, you should be. Our Lady appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima. These three shepherd children were given messages and a miracle was even performed there that was witnessed by thousands. In the miracle on Oct 13, 1917, the sun danced, changed colors, and was hurled towards earth as if to destroy it. The sun then rose again in its original position. This event was witnessed be 70,000 thousands of people! It's been called, the Miracle of the Sun.
Before this on May 13, 1917, Our Lady told the 3 children (Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco): "Say the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war." In an apparition on July 13, she requested devotion to her Immaculate Heart and Communions of reparation on the first Saturday of each month. In a September 13th apparition, she stressed the importance of the daily Rosary, and in her final apparition, she said, "I am the Lady of the Rosary."
So pray the Rosary daily - and use Lent to start if you need to.
5. Wear the Brown Scapular
First, if you were not traditionally invested in the Brown Scapular (or if you are uncertain), find a traditional Catholic priest to be properly enrolled in the Confraternity of the Brown Scapular. Recall that by the wearing of the Brown Scapular, Mary promises to pray for us at the hour of death. And more than that - 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 that sanctifying grace may come back into our soul before we die. Mary also promises that the Scapular will be “a safeguard in danger.” Those are the two promises by Mary for those that wear the Scapular.
While those who wear the Scapular are required to fast on Wednesdays and Saturdays in addition to the daily prayer of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, priests nearly always dispense the Faithful to instead simply pray the Rosary Daily (See #4).
If you lost your Brown Scapular, simply purchase one online. The Brown Scapular does not have to be blessed before it is worn, unlike most Sacramentals.
6. Saturday Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary
If you don't already, set aside the First Saturday of March (which this year falls during Lent) as a time for special reparation and prayers to the Mother of God. See the post Saturday Devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary for more ideas on how to sanctify this day.
7. Go to an extra Mass or more each week of Lent.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the greatest prayer there is.
8. Add a Holy Hour, once a week, twice a week, or each day.
"If we really loved the good God, we should make it our joy and happiness to come and spend a few moments to adore Him, and ask Him for the grace of forgiveness; and we should regard those moments as the happiest of our lives." - St. John Vianney (on Adoration of Jesus in the Most the Blessed Sacrament)"
Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us." - St. Alphonsus Liguori
9. Pray for the Souls in Purgatory
We have an obligation to pray for our relatives and for anyone we may have harmed by our sins. A Rosary before the Blessed Sacrament after Mass is extremely efficacious for the Poor Souls and can lead to the gaining of a plenary indulgence—all other conditions for this being fulfilled.
We should pray fervently and frequently for the souls in Purgatory. Start by adding the St. Gertrude Prayer to your daily prayers
"ETERNAL FATHER, I OFFER THEE THE MOST PRECIOUS BLOOD OF THY DIVINE SON, JESUS, IN UNION WITH THE MASSES SAID THROUGHOUT THE WORLD TODAY, FOR ALL THE HOLY SOULS IN PURGATORY, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal Church, those in my own home and within my family. Amen."
Our Lord told St. Gertrude the Great that 1,000 souls would be released from Purgatory every time this is said! This prayer has now even been "extended to living sinners which would alleviate the indebtedness accrued to them during their lives."
Additionally, it should be widely promoted for the Faithful to ask the clergy to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the intention of freeing the souls in Purgatory. Many souls are released from Purgatory by the graces from the Mass. Furthermore, we should seek to gain Indulgences for the souls in Purgatory. The easiest way to do this is by obtaining an Enrichion of Indulgences which lists the indulgenced prayers and the conditions for obtaining the indulgence.
Furthermore, the souls in Purgatory are greatly aided when we offer our Holy Communions for them. Make it a practice to offer your Holy Communion at least once weekly for the souls in Purgatory.
In the past I have reflected on Praying the Stations of the Cross - which also happen to have indulgences attached to them - and at this time I would also encourage you to pray the Stations for the souls in Purgatory. Similarly, through almsgiving, penance, and fasting done with the intention of freeing souls in Purgatory, we can directly help the suffering souls in the Church Suffering. And these souls, when freed from their purgation, shall certainly pray without ceasing for our salvation.
10. Pray for those in Danger of Dying
Such prayers should be offered to Our Lady to apply as she desires, for she sees clearly who really needs the extra graces at any given time.
11. Pray for anyone you may have had the misfortune to lead into sin.
Not only should you make prayers of reparation, but you must seek out these souls and seek to repair the damage. Lent is an opportune time for this.
12. Prayer for the End of Abortion
"From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a 'criminal' practice (GS 27 # 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life."
13. Go to Weekly Confession
Confession is the only means that our Lord instituted for the forgiveness of sins.
14. Make an Examination of Conscience at Lunch and before Sleep
As recommended in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, make your examination of conscience at lunch and then again before sleep. At lunch, reflect on your words, thoughts, and deeds (or lack thereof) for each hour of the day up until then. If you have sinned, make a sincere Act of Contrition. Remember to confess these sins at your next Confession. In the evening, again make an examination of conscience on each hour of the day starting with lunch until the present moment.
15. Make Voluntary acts of Daily Penance
To Sr. Lucy of Fatima, Our Lord revealed that "The penance I now ask and require is that necessary for the fulfillment of My law and the performance of one's daily duties."
16. Perform Good Works of Mercy
- Increase your donation at Church.
- Give to traditional monasteries and convents.
- Support good traditional Catholic schools.
- Support crisis pregnancy centers.
- Support local soup kitchens.
- Help those who are poor.
17. Do Apostolic Work
- Take someone to Mass with you.
- Take someone to Confession with you.
- Invite someone to become a Catholic—start talking to him about it. Buy him access to an online education course to instruct him in the teachings of the Faith.
- Get a priest to visit a fallen-away Catholic, especially an elderly one.
- Distribute Catholic books and booklets. A list of recommended books is available here.
18. Perform 15 minutes of Spiritual Reading Daily
Read from the Bible Daily or the Lives of the Saints. Or, check out my list of Recommended Books for Lent.
19. Consecrate Your Life Each Day to God
Each day of Lent, pray and renew both your Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and your Dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
20. Talk as Little as Possible
Vain speech is of little avail for the eternal life. During Lent, mirror the practices of the religious orders and speak only when necessary. As said in the Rule of St. Benedict, "Indeed, so important is silence that permission to speak should seldom be granted even to mature disciples, no matter how good or holy or constructive their talk, because it is written: In a flood of words you will not avoid sin (Prov 10:19); and elsewhere, The tongue holds the key to life and death (Prov 18:21). Speaking and teaching are the master's task; the disciple is to be silent and listen"
As you can see none of these practices included "giving up" candy, chocolate, dessert, et cetera. There is a modern misconception that Lent is about dieting or about "giving up" time wasters in order to increase in productivity. This is not further from the Truth. For those of you out there who think Lent is about getting in shape and increasing efficient, "you have received your rewards" (cf. Matthew 6:5 ) and the discipline of Lent has done little to help your immortal soul.
So join me in sharing, bookmarking, and passing along these lists to your friend, relative and contacts. Let us make this Lent one of mortification for the honor and glory of Almighty God and for the salvation of our souls.