Lenten Guidelines & Resources
Entering more deeply into the Lenten season of penance and renewal
"Each year Ash Wednesday and its resounding invitation to let the Lord raise us up begins a very serious season, a quarantine — a 40-day observance of renewal and penance to seek the Lord Jesus and to accompany Him in His action of salvation for us, His Passion, Death and Resurrection. This salvation is done personally and communally in us, for we are called as the Body of Christ, the Church. None of us do this alone!"
-- Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Message for Lent 2023 --
Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I frequently see the television advertisement of an elderly person who has slipped and cries out: “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.” The dilemma is solved by wearing an electronic monitor that will respond to the persons and bring help to raise them up.
The scene can act as a metaphor for us in the human condition who need help though some will try to deny it. The first part of establishing a healing is a recognition that we are fallen! “Remember you are dust, and unto dust, you will return.” Those words of reminder and of invitation to repent, spoken to each person on receiving ashes, are a primary action of recognition: We are in need of being saved.
Each year Ash Wednesday and its resounding invitation to let the Lord raise us up begins a very serious season, a quarantine — a 40-day observance of renewal and penance to seek the Lord Jesus and to accompany Him in His action of salvation for us, His Passion, Death and Resurrection. This salvation is done personally and communally in us, for we are called as the Body of Christ, the Church. None of us do this alone!
Lent is a marvelous time in the Church — a time of bright sadness. People are reconciled through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A whole corps of individuals, our catechumens, enter the final period of their preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at Easter; even their status changes as they become “elect” and “enlightened” are prayed over, instructed and anointed with the oil of catechumens.
Others of the faithful make it their special care to celebrate the Stations of the Cross, to pray the Rosary, to seek out the poor and homeless and provide assistance, to fast and abstain from food and other good things so as to concentrate their minds on the Word of God. Yes, Lent is a time for reading and studying Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels. Maybe this is the year to join the podcast “The Bible in a Year.” It is also a time for receiving the Eucharist, even daily, our “supersubstantial” Bread.
Whatever the action, penance or charity accepted, Lent is the time to get serious. We have fallen, fallen away from the Lord and each other. We need help to get up, and Jesus is the One sent for our healing. His Resurrection is our resurrection.
The Gospels this year on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent are three great chapters of gold from the Gospel of St. John: The Woman at the Well, The Man Born Blind and The Raising of Lazarus.
In each episode, the wonderful conversation and dialogue of Jesus with a number of different speakers draws out a central point not to be missed by us who hear them today. Jesus is Living Water to quench and refresh the human search for meaning, Jesus is Light that heals human blindness, physical and spiritual, and Jesus is Life, the fullness of life for all who come to him.
In one of the Eastern Churches, there is a series of poems on the Raising of Lazarus where Death and Satan, frightened by what is happening, tell the dead Lazarus: “You better go now; hurry, he is calling you Lazarus. Get up and leave the rest of us alone. Who knows what that Jesus will try next?” Though the picturing of the underworld and death may seem naïve to us and draw a smile, the theological point is poignant and powerful.
Jesus Christ has come and has shattered the fear of death by undergoing death for us. He is risen. Let us get up with Him from where we have fallen!
Queridos Hermanos y Hermanas,
Frecuentemente veo un anuncio en la televisión de una persona mayor que se resbala y grita: “Auxilio, me he caído y no me puedo levantar.” El dilema se resuelve usando un monitor electrónico que responderá a las personas y traerá ayuda para levantarlas.
La escena puede actuar como una metáfora para nosotros en la condición humana que necesitamos ayuda, aunque algunos intentarán negarlo. ¡La primera parte de establecer una sanación es reconocer que hemos caído! “Recuerda que polvo eres, y en polvo te convertirás.” Esas palabras de recordatorio e invitación al arrepentimiento, dichas a cada persona que recibe cenizas, son una acción primaria de reconocimiento: Tenemos la necesidad de ser salvados.
Cada año, el Miércoles de Ceniza y su resonante invitación a dejar que el Señor nos resucite inicia un tiempo muy serio, una cuarentena – una observancia de 40 días de renovación y penitencia para buscar al Señor Jesús y para acompañarlo en Su acto de salvación por nosotros, Su Pasión, Muerte y Resurrección. Esta salvación se realiza personal y comunitariamente en nosotros, pues somos llamados como el Cuerpo de Cristo, La Iglesia. ¡Ninguno de nosotros hace esto solo!
La Cuaresma es un tiempo maravilloso en la Iglesia – un tiempo de una tristeza radiante. Las personas se reconcilian por medio del Sacramento de Reconciliación. Todo un cuerpo de individuos, nuestros catecúmenos entran en el periodo final de su preparación para el Bautismo, Confirmación y Eucaristía durante la Pascua; incluso su estado cambia a medida que se convierten en “elegidos” e “ilustrados”, se ora sobre ellos, son instruidos y ungidos con el óleo de los catecúmenos. Otros fieles procuran especialmente rezar el Vía Crucis, el Rosario, buscar ayudar a los pobres y desamparados y brindarles asistencia; ayunar y abstenerse de alimentos y otras cosas buenas para así concentrar sus mentes en la Palabra de Dios. Sí, la Cuaresma es un tiempo para leer y estudiar la Sagrada Escritura, especialmente los Evangelios. Tal vez este sea el año para unirse al Podcast “La Biblia en un Año". También es un tiempo para recibir la Eucaristía, incluso diariamente, nuestro Pan “supersubstancial”.
Cualquier acción, penitencia o caridad aceptada, la Cuaresma es el momento de ponerse serios. Hemos caído, nos hemos alejado del Señor y unos de otros. Necesitamos ayuda para levantarnos y Jesús es el enviado para sanarnos. Su Resurrección es nuestra resurrección.
Los Evangelios de este año del Tercer, Cuarto y Quinto domingo de Cuaresma son tres grandes capítulos de oro del Evangelio de San Juan. La Mujer junto al Pozo, el Ciego de Nacimiento, y la Resurrección de Lázaro.
En cada episodio, la maravillosa conversación y dialogo de Jesús con varios oradores distintos sacan a relucir un punto que no debemos perdernos quienes los escuchamos hoy en día. Jesús es Agua Viva para saciar y refrescar la búsqueda humana del significado, Jesús es Luz que sana la ceguera humana: física y espiritual y Jesús es Vida, la plenitud de vida para todos los que a Él acuden.
En una de las Iglesias Orientales, hay una serie de poemas sobre la Resurrección de Lázaro donde la Muerte y Satanás, asustados por lo que está pasando, le dicen al Lázaro muerto: “Será mejor que te vayas ahora, date prisa, te está llamando, Lázaro. Levántate y déjanos en paz a los demás. ¿Quién sabe qué otra cosa intentará Jesús?” Aunque la representación del inframundo y la muerte pueda parecernos ingenua y nos cause una sonrisa, el punto teológico es conmovedor y poderoso. Jesucristo ha venido y ha destruido el miedo a la muerte al morir por nosotros. Él ha resucitado. ¡Levantémonos con Él desde donde estamos caídos!
Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.
Below are the guidelines of Lenten observance for the faithful in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. For key dates, please visit the Holy Days page of this website.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, and lasts until Holy Thursday, April 6, 2023.
Ash Wednesday is a universal day of fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the imposition of ashes on foreheads “symbolizes our dependence upon God's mercy and forgiveness.”
In preparation for these 40 days that will lead us to renew and embrace our baptismal commitment, we offer these ideas for prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence.
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Fasting and Abstaining from Meat During Lent
Roman Catholics must fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Additionally, they must abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent.
As outlined by the U.S. Bishops' conference, “fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.
The rule of abstinence from meat is binding upon Catholics aged 14 and onwards. This does not apply to dairy products, eggs, or condiments and shortening made from animal fat. Fish and all cold-blooded animals may be eaten (e.g., frogs, clams, turtles, etc.).
If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the 'paschal fast' to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection.
Throughout the Archdiocese, parishes gather as a community in abstinence from meat for weekly fish fries during Lent. Contact your nearest parish to learn more about these community-focused events. Many are held before or after Friday services praying the Stations of the Cross.
Through our works of prayer, fasting, and abstinence, let us heed the prophet Joel's exhortation to return to God with our whole heart (2:12).”
Lent is a penitential season and as such religious practices such as daily Mass, reception of the Sacrament of Penance, the devotion of the Stations of the Cross, works of charity and justice, and acts of self-denial are highly encouraged.
Like millions of Catholics across the world, the Pope himself receives ashes on Ash Wednesday.
"The celebration of the Paschal Triduum of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, the culmination of the liturgical year, calls us yearly to undertake a journey of preparation, in the knowledge that our being conformed to Christ is a priceless gift of God’s mercy."
Pope Francis, 2019 Message for Lent
Recipes: Meatless Meals from Around the World
- Each Friday of Lent, we abstain from eating meat as a way to experience a little of the hunger that many experience daily. Journey with us around the world and incorporate these Lenten recipes into your meatless Fridays. Give the money you saved each week by not eating meat—about $3 per person per meal—to your CRS Rice Bowl to feed those in need around the world.
For the recipes, visit Catholic Relief Service Rice Bowl project.
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent. The U.S. Bishops' statement, "God's Gift of Forgiveness: The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation" can be distributed and shared in parishes. Dioceses are encouraged to make the sacrament available often during Lent and to use these resources to promote participation. We also have resources to help individuals who have not been to confession in a while "rediscover" the sacrament.
Praying the Stations of the Cross
From the Texas Catholic Herald:
A staple in almost any Catholic church sanctuary, these images invite faithful to step into the actual historical experience of Jesus Christ, according to Father Ken O’Malley, CP.
The of the Cross, also known as the Way of the Cross, is at the “core of Catholicism,” Father O’Malley said. “It’s an essence of the Gospel, the crucifixion and death of Jesus. It’s very basic to who we are.”
Beginning as the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem, the devotion multiplied after fewer faithful could make the journey to the Holy Land, he said. It eventually took the form of the 14 stations currently found in almost every church.
The Stations help educate our imagination, helping us to think and to enter into the mind and imagination of God and to make our life better, Father O’Malley said.
Those who pray the Stations of the Cross can also gain a plenary indulgence on any Friday in Lent and a partial indulgence on other days of the year, with the addition of prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions. Those who cannot do the full exercise of the Way of the Cross, which includes the physical genuflecting and kneeling at certain parts of the prayers, may gain the same indulgence by sending at least one half an hour intently reading and meditating on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, according to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.
A plenary indulgence grants the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, and must be coupled with a sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions and complete detachment from all sin, including venial.
- Stations of the Cross for Vocations
- Scriptural Stations of the Cross
- Stations of the Cross for Life
- A Scriptural Way of the Cross for Lent - en Espanõl
- Praying the Stations of the Cross for Victims of Human Trafficking - en Espanõl
- Video Stations of the Cross by Catholic Relief Services
- Stations of the Cross - CRS Rice Bowl - Text
From the Texas Catholic Herald
The following are a number of stories exploring different parts of the Lenten season, including messages from Cardinal DiNardo, Pope Francis and other aspects of the Church.
- Palms to ashes: A few things to know about Ash Wednesday
- Cardinal DiNardo: Words ‘we all long to hear’ lay in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Entering the desert to discover love
- Opportunities abound to be intentional about Lent
- Service projects, retreats offer Lenten spiritual renewal
- Lenten CRS Rice Bowl campaign helps poor