The forty days of Lent recall the forty years that the Israelites spent wandering in the desert after being freed from slavery in Egypt as well as the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before he began his public ministry. During Lent we are called to renew ourselves through fasting, prayer and alms-giving (giving money and service to those in need). Lent provides us an opportunity to examine our faith and to deepen our commitment to live a Christian life.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are two days of fasting and abstinence which are observed by the entire Church. Fasting means that Catholics from 18 years of age up to the beginning of their 60th year are expected to eat only one full meal and two other light meals on this day, with nothing to eat between meals. Abstinence means that Catholics over 14 years of age are expected to abstain from eating meat on this day. All of the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence. In Canada, Catholics may substitute special acts of charity or piety instead of abstaining from meat.

In addition, many people choose to extend their fasting through the giving up of a favorite food or a favorite activity. By depriving ourselves of something which we enjoy, we are able to redirect our focus from earthly things toward God and to offer up our sacrifice to God as Jesus offered up his life on our behalf. This requires self-control and discipline of us but it also shows us our need for God's help and guidance. We fast, not to curry favor with God or to look good, but to transform ourselves by developing more focused attention on God and a greater dependence on God.

Lent also asks us to extend our prayer life and to enter into a closer communication with God, in order to further develop our personal relationship with Him. We may choose to attend Mass more frequently during Lent, to make the Stations of the Cross, to spend a holy hour with the Blessed Sacrament or to spend extra time in personal prayer or spiritual readings. By entering into these devotions, we remove ourselves from the distractions of the busy modern world and allow ourselves the opportunity not only to speak to God but also the occasion to hear Him speaking to us in the stillness of our hearts.

Finally, we are asked to engage in acts of charity  - to share our gifts of time, of treasure and of talent with those who have less than us or who are in need. These acts of charity represent the living out of our faith. Through faith, we profess belief in Jesus; through charity, we put into practice what He taught us.

There are many sites on the Internet which offer a variety of prayer options for those who might be interested in using the Internet to increase their prayer life during Lent. If you are one of those people, click here for some links which may be useful to you.