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Rome Reports

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What is Lent?


Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes just before the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. The season lasts 40 days, symbolizing the 40 days Jesus lived in the desert, the Israelites' 40 years of exile and the 40-day flood experienced by Noah. 

During these weeks, the Church calls for Christians to meditate and return to their spiritual lives in preparation for Easter. 


The pope gives various keys to living these days. For example, he carries out a few days of spiritual exercises during this period. 

Another key to Lent is confession. Pope Francis himself partakes in a penitential ceremony in the Vatican in which he confesses and hears others' confessions. 


Catholics observe fasting and abstinence. Fasting consists of eating less on two days – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Pope Francis explains it must be done in a humble manner and translate into one's treatment of others.

“Does my fast help others? If it does not it's fake, it's inconsistent and it takes you on the path to a double life, pretending to be a just Christian - like the Pharisees or the Sadducees. Inside, though, I am not. Humbly ask for the grace of coherence. Coherence. If I am unable to do something, I will not do it. I will do only what I can with the consistency of a true Christian.”

Abstinence is observed every Friday of Lent and involves not eating meat as an act of penance. 

Interestingly, those in Milan, Italy, follow the Ambrosian Rite, and their Lent begins later and lasts fewer than 40 days.