What does it mean to pray, fast and give alms? Each year, I give myself time to reflect on these three aspects of Lent. Lent is a time of reflection, sacrifice, deeper prayer and giving to others, as we prepare for Easter when we will celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days until Holy Thursday. Through greater prayer, fasting from food or other pleasures, and giving to others, we draw closer in our relationship to God. The infographics below give excellent details for these three pillars of Lent.

Usually for Lent, I try to give up something (like movies, sweets, social media, etc.) or I add something to my prayer & spiritual life (like reading my Bible more or spending more time in Adoration or mass). The struggle for me is finding something I know I can consistently do. At the end of the semester, when papers and assignments are due, I often feel like I don’t have enough time in the day for extra prayer time or an extra mass. But the reality is, in my busiest moments, that’s when I need God the most.

A priest once told me, quoting St. Francis de Sales, “half an hour of prayer a day is essential, except when you’re busy. Then 1 hour is needed.”

Even though I laugh, this saying really holds some truth. How often do we have such full schedules it can feel hard to balance? Or we’re just too tired to keep up? In reality, that’s when I need God’s help the most. The more time I spend in prayer, the more strength I have. Those 15 extra minutes give me more patience and love that I can then share with others. That’s why Lent is so essential – it brings us back to God who is always waiting. I’m often tempted to sigh when Lent rolls around each year as nobody truly LOVES giving up their favourite Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. But if Jesus sacrificed everything for us, can’t we sacrifice a little for him?

As we begin Lent, reflect on what matters most to you. What can you cut out of your life that tends to distract you or take you away from the important things? In which areas of your life can you invest more time into people you love? How can you give to others? And if you’re struggling, you can always take those thoughts to prayer.

Wishing you a blessed and very fruitful Lenten season.

Anna Lizak