Lent begins in one week! Have you made your plan.



Lent begins in a week, 22 February this year.

It is time to make your plans for Lent.

You should start thinking about one or more mortifications (and consider something other than chocolate) as well as some corporal and/or spiritual work of mercy to pursue during Lent.

Before Lent starts make a plan for your meals and for your participation at Mass and the Sacrament of Penance.

Don’t let this go until Thursday after Ash Wednesday.

Write some ideas down and stick them to your refrigerator door or on the bathroom mirror.  Talk about this with your spouses.  Revisit the ideas for the next two Sundays to see if they need some realistic tweaking or refinement.

Perhaps parents could make some suggestions for a family observance of Lent, including pointers for children, so as to make it meaningful but not overly burdensome on those who are not bound to do heavy penances.

Also, for some reading during Lent you might consider our Holy Father’s two volumes about our Lord.

Volume One focuses on our Lord from His Baptism in the Jordan to His Transfiguration, themes explored during our liturgical worship in Lent.

Jesus of Nazareth

(UK readers click HERE.)

Volume Two focuses on Holy Week, from the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem to His Resurrection.

Jesus of Nazareth

(UK readers click HERE.)

They are both available on Kindle.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, GO TO CONFESSION, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Bryan Boyle says:

    I don’t look at mortification, or penance as something that I do for God, but a gift, like the Eucharist, that God grants as a favor to me. What a privilege it is, at least for me, to be able to participate in this season, refocusing my life on what’s important, discarding that which holds me back from true fuller participation in HIS salvation, than to practice acts of self mortification, works of mercy, and increased prayer.

    Lent is a gift that keeps on giving. Fully participating, denying ones’ self does not make you less of who you are, but more of who you SHOULD be. As a good friend of mine once said (not of this, but it is apropos) regarding something that improves you: “Lean into it”.

    So, this year, I’m going to “Lean into Lent”.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    May I suggest that we not wait for Lent to do penance, with things so bad as they are? I am doing severe penances now, as time is short.

  3. akp1 says:

    Excellent suggestion of the Pope’s books – last Lent I re-read part 1 then read part 2 during the Easter season. This year I have a book on Kindle ‘A Lenten journey with Jesus Christ and St. Therese of Lisieux’ chosen particularly because I will be received into the Third Order of Carmelites on the 25th February.

  4. melotte says:

    We will be following a course on the second book of the Pope in the nearby parish of Leiden (The Netherlands) during Lent.

  5. AnnAsher says:

    I have a chart already on the fridge work a plan for pre – lent and Lent all laid out. My plan unites the Latin laws I’m bound by plus the some of the traditional EC fasts and abstinence. Ie: everyday an eastern fast ( nothing but liquid from midnight to noon) followed by noon to midnight Latin fast. Weds is a 24 hour EC fast. Fridays is EC abstinence – meat eggs oil butter sugar wine. Everyday is fast from sugar and wine. I’ve added EC morning rule of prayer in a latmans version and keeping our Latin evening prayers. I’m a unification of east and west for Lent.

  6. AnnAsher says:

    Oops Reading Guerenger’s Liturgical Year – volume 4 and 5 :)

  7. Flambeaux says:

    I just sent to my spiritual director an outline of what my wife and I discussed last night for the Lenten regimen this year.

    There are elements that apply to only one of us, elements that apply to us as a couple, and elements that will involve the whole family.

    Prayers for a fruitful Lent have begun in earnest under our roof so that in all things God may be glorified.

  8. philologus says:

    moriar, ne moriar.

    I must die, lest I die.


  9. Mary Jane says:

    “…consider something other than chocolate…” Noooo problem there! ;-)

    “Talk about this with your spouses.” Hopefully the married folks reading this only have one… ;-)

    Seriously though Fr. Z, thanks for the reminders and pointers. Gotta work on getting a plan put together.

  10. priests wife says:

    We normally go meatless during the fasting times (except for Sundays)- I attempt to cook vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays- with young children it is not always possible.

    My Lenten challenge is for me to be asleep by 9:30-10:00— then a six o’clock wake up won’t be bad.

  11. JKnott says:

    Another superb book for Lent ,or anytime, is by the late Fr Edward Leen “In the Likeness of Christ”.
    Angelus Press has the reprinted edition.
    I have given them to about 8 people as gifts.

  12. NancyJ says:

    Last year my family of 5 (with 3 boys aged 11, 9, 7) did the following for our Lenten observance:

    We gave up t.v. and computer games completely. Unplugged the t.v. and suspended Netflix and satellite service. The money saved ($60 on our electric bill! and about $100 for satellite and Netflix) was donated to charity. The result was more time together as a family, more spiritual reading, and more projects around the house with dad.

    In addition to our daily family rosary we signed up for one hour of prayer in front of an abortion clinic in conjunction with our local 40 Days for Life campaign. And most Fridays we participated in the Stations of the Cross. The oddest comment to come out of our visible prayer vigils was an indiviual yelling “Get a life!” as they quickly drove past. To which I replied to my boys “we are doing this for Life.”

    I look forward to our family meeting where we come up with our plan for this year.

  13. Margaret says:

    I’ve already been thinking and praying about this, and frankly, I think a big chunk of my fast needs to be from the internet– specifically Facebook and the Catholic blogosphere. I need to rededicate myself to my normal times of prayer and such, plus really invest myself into taking care of my family. If the controversies of the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that I won’t be ready for what lies ahead unless I start doing some serious spiritual strength training and endurance exercises…

  14. Pingback: MONDAY AFTERNOON EXTRA | ThePulp.it

  15. keithp says:

    I recently purchased Aquinas Meditations for Lent. Daily brief meditations for Suptuagesima to Holy Saturday. Looks to be quite useful for me.

  16. Denita says:

    I’m not completely going offline, but I think “abstaining” from the computer on
    Fridays and Sundays would help me re-focus.

  17. Liz says:

    Noooooooo…I hate the beginning of Lent. (And my “preparation” usually involves in indulging in food and good stuff, and how, while I have the time!) However, I do LOVE stations of the cross and I actually love Lent,… eventually. It takes me awhile, but I love the fruits of Lent.

  18. NoTambourines says:

    One of my favorite sources for Lenten cooking is Catholic Relief Services’ recipe collection:


    Along with the spiritual benefits, Lent gets my cooking out of a rut, too.

  19. SWP says:

    I will be eating plain soups like lentil or navy bean. My wife is pregnant, so she is exempt, though we have already begun abstaining from meat on Fridays. Our hope is to establish this custom to continue throughout the year. We have also begun praying the Divine Office for our bedtime prayer, as the Holy Father has suggested. I plan to do some spiritual reading, and I want to get in the habit of wearing my scapular again, which I lost at one point in luggage. I’m coordinating a 40 Days for Life in Pontiac, MI. Please pray for its success.

  20. irishgirl says:

    I’m not sure what I’ll be doing for Lent; I usually ‘start out well’ but ‘end badly’.
    I do my daily Rosary (Sorrowful Mysteries each day, with the exceptions of St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day, and Annunciation Day). Might try to do the Stations of the Cross on Friday.
    On Fridays all year round, I abstain from meat and have either pasta or rice (in reparation for abortion)-not just in Lent.
    I go to our Adoration Chapel in the morning to pray my Rosary (instead of doing it at home), and then spend the rest of the time in quiet prayer.
    I kind of ‘play it by ear’ and don’t make any long term plans. I never know if I’m going to go through the whole of Lent with my ‘plan’ intact.

  21. meippoliti says:

    Here is a great post for families with children. I have used the author’s activities with my small ones. From making calendars, coloring the stations of the cross, meatless meals, to giving one food item to the poor for 40 days, we have been able to prepare/observe Lent with wee ones. http://showerofroses.blogspot.com/2011/02/preparing-for-lent-our-lenten-journey.html

  22. Mariana says:

    My preparation so far has been planning a pig out on Mardi Gras! But the Ratzinger books I have, so I will read them during Lent, that was a great suggestion. Otherwise I’ll need to do exactly the same as Margaret, at 4:27 pm.

  23. Pingback: Get ready for Lent! | ourladyofgracemonastery

  24. Tina in Ashburn says:

    Penances we choose ourselves are not as effective as accepting those that our knowing God sends us. In addition, the spiritual masters teach that of all people, we know ourselves the least. So when I was very very young my parents decided that Lenten penances would be assigned by others in the family. I mean, like, can you imagine getting a penance from somebody else, who knows your faults better than you can admit?

    It was. the. worst. Lent. ever.

    We never did THAT again!

  25. FaithfulCatechist says:

    It’s good to be prepared; you don’t want to wake up on Ash Wednesday without knowing what you’re going to give up. But in a society that makes a virtue of jumping the gun (Christmas decorations in October, pre-nursery school, etc.) do we really need another pre-something? Maybe it was prudent to keep 70ema softly-spoken…

  26. Ellen says:

    I don’t have to fast any more since I am 60, but I will. Usually for Lent I give up meat, desserts and any snacks. I’m going to continue that fast this year. I tend to waste a lot of time in the morning on the internet. I’m going to not turn it on, and instead read the Bible and the stack of Catholic books I have on my kindle. I’ve been praying the rosary every day, the St. Michael prayer and the Memorarae, and I plan on going to the Stations of the Cross on Fridays at our parish. I would LOVE to go to daily Mass, but because of my work, I can only go on Monday and Saturday. So I’ll keep that up.

    I do feel a lot of unease with the state of the world and I can’t help but think prayers are necessary.

  27. poohbear says:

    What a great comment from Margaret above If the controversies of the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that I won’t be ready for what lies ahead unless I start doing some serious spiritual strength training and endurance exercises…

    I usually leave the lenten planning till Ash Wednesday, but this year I will make a plan. Thanks Fr Z for the reminder. I have both of the books mentioned, purchased last year for lent, but never read.

  28. Supertradmum says:

    Ellen, I am more over 60 than you and I fast and I know some Catholics in their 80s who fast. I think the 60 rule is ridiculously low for 2012, unless one had medical issues, but those have always been understood as reasons not to or at least get permission for….I do not consider myself old by any stretch of the imagination Fasting should be done whether there is a rule or not and I am glad to hear that you understand the spirit of the law.

  29. wmeyer says:

    Ellen and Supertradmum, my uncle turned 79 in October, and still fasts. He also gives up alcohol and cigars.

  30. lu3777 says:

    Among other things, I’m planning on giving up my Mystic Monk coffee. If that doesn’t make a saint out of me, I don’t know what will!

  31. NoTambourines says:

    Other than the obligatory fasting and abstaining, that’s about all I can or should take on right now, medically speaking. I’m waiting on the results of some blood tests from about 2 weeks ago to see what might be going on there and hopefully rule some things out. As a rule, though, I do give up takeout/convenience food, baking, and alcohol for Lent. The one other food — more symbolic than substantive — that I’m giving up are those Thai Kitchen soup packets, which I’m currently “addicted” to.

    But where I’m limited on actual fasting, I’m hoping to intensify prayer, and add at least something of the Divine Office back into my routine, in hopes of re-establishing it beyond Lent.

  32. NoTambourines says:

    Almost forgot: Fr. Dwight Longenecker’s The Gargoyle Code was a “game changer” of a read for me last year. It’s set up to be read over the course of Lent, but I read it in a week.

    It has made me more vigilant about to day-to-day spiritual “traps,” and it’s also what drew my attention to the Divine Office in the first place.

  33. monmir says:

    Meatless lent except Sundays, holy week no animal product. I think that is what it used to be. I do meatless Fridays and also Wednesdays with evening of Eucharistic Adoration all year. Penance is a year round thing.

  34. APX says:

    I tried to give up coffee last Lent, but my roommates didn’t want to live with me.

    I don’t really get the pre-lent thing. I’m the type who’s better at jumping into things straight on rather than easing myself in.

  35. @APX I take it from the fact that you have roommates that you’re probably much younger than I am, so I’m not so anxious as I might be in making a suggestion to an older person. The personal discomfort of doing without the coffee is only about a quarter of the Lenten sacrifice. The other three-quarters is the consistent, moment-by-moment discipline of being as pleasant and courteous to your friends (ESPECIALLY the ones who live under the same roof with you) as you would be if you had a pint of healing java in the tank. It’ll be a matter of saying to yourself a hundred times a day, “I’m not going to snap at this person just because I’m in caffeine withdrawal.” If you undertake the challenge, you’ll be staggered by the change it brings about in your personal happiness, in addition to the spiritual benefits.

  36. APX says:


    I no longer have roommates. After 8 months of passive aggressive notes left on the fridge about tea towels not perfectly folded, unfluffed couch pillows, crooked vacuum lines on the carpet, etc I decided that life’s more peaceful when you live alone. I don’t have roommates anymore. I’ve had too many who are just so completely opposite than me.

  37. Good! It would drive me bonkers to live with people I wasn’t related to. Everything else still holds true, however: Lent isn’t about how much we suffer, it’s about how much detachment and self-command we learn to practice.

  38. Kathleen10 says:

    AKP1…CONGRATULATIONS! How wonderful….how perfectly wonderful…..

  39. Kathleen10 says:

    This blog is making contemporary life in America tolerable…thank you Fr. Z and everyone here for what you write…it’s wonderful to feel some companionship on the journey…I enjoy your comments and suggestions so much…God bless all here and wishing everyone a meaningful Lent…
    I plan to also push away the computer a bit and pray more…my prayer life is absurd…contemplation yes…prayer…no…Friday abstinence for sure….
    Stations of the Cross are part of my plan…confession…my husband is going after many years!
    I always do spiritual reading, almost nothing else…so that continues…
    penance I’m still working on…what would be appropriate and meaningful…I’ll come up with something, perhaps God will suggest one to me…

  40. Dr. Eric says:

    I’m going to echo the sentiments of an earlier poster who wrote that a person needs to check his Lenten Disciplines with his spiritual director. All of us have the tendency to either go too easy or too hard on ourselves. Our ascetical practices should be monitored by one who is more spiritually mature than ourselves.

  41. pxs155 says:

    It’s probably best if we keep our specific fasting plans to ourselves and our families–those that will probably be affected. Just sayin’.

    Fast in secret. Be rewarded openly.

  42. Centristian says:

    I’m wanting to do something active that makes me, in the words of St. James, a “doer” of the Word, and not just a hearer. I think I hear alot…and certainly flap my trap alot…about the Faith, but I have to say I don’t do much of anything that amounts to a whole lot of good for other people. I suppose that’s really got to change. It might as well change this year, this Lenten season.

    I plan to visit my nearby hospital and pray for the sick in their chapel each week, and also to do something along the lines of volunteer work with the poor. A friend of mine works with a nun who runs a soup kitchen, so I think I might volunteer. Also, I am blessed with a church right across the street from my office that offers Mass during my lunch hour. Maybe I could skip lunch every Friday and go to Mass instead. Maybe more often than that, even.

    All that and try to be kinder and more Christian, in general, to everyone I encounter. That, alone, would amount to a herculean task.

  43. contrarian says:

    The beginning of Lent perfectly corresponds to the start of St. Louis de Montfort’s Way of Total Consecration, where I start on Feb. 21st and end on March 25th two weeks before Easter. Cool.

    Weird thing, though: the first day of the preparation–Feb. 21st, which I think is supposed to be a day of fasting–falls on Fat Tuesday. What gets precedent? Fat Tuesday awesomeness, or fasting for the preparation for the consecration?

    Anybody got any advice?

  44. SonofMonica says:

    pxs155: Posters are allowed to post anonymously here. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing your fasting plans without any identifiable information. Since no one can trace it back to you, it’s pretty much the same as saying, “One idea would be to give up ________.” That’s the way I see it, anyway.

  45. Mary Jane says:

    I plan to go to Stations each Friday (and abstain from meat on Fridays, of course). I also plan on eating simpler meals and dinners, perhaps cold dinners, every so often. More prayer…more reading…less computer time. No sweets…no soda, chocolate, dessert-foods, etc. I’d like to also work in a daily “offering”…perhaps getting up an hour earlier one day, an extra decade of the Rosary the next, etc.

  46. Supertradmum says:

    I am looking for a warm cave. Will take suggestions.

  47. erinalicia says:

    Just bought Magnificat’s Lenten Companion app today. It includes chants for Lent and Easter you can listen to while you pray. Would love to learn more about these chants.

  48. I blogged a bout this topic – Sorta… http://www.lostlambs.net/post/17646867000/is-it-wrong-to-be-excited-to-give-up-something-for
    I had asked if its wrong to be excited to give up something for lent.

    I still haven’t gotten a strait answer….

  49. tealady24 says:

    To contrarian: well, to answer your trick question, if your consecration starts on fat tuesday, isn’t that a signal to you to fast? I’ve never understood that mardi gras silliness anyway.

    Aside from my regular daily prayers and rosary, I will be foregoing soda and snacks completely. Also, many meatless meals, which can be very nutritious, if you know what you’re doing, and just keeping quiet in a Mary tradition. I am currently reading The End of the Present World by Fr. Arminjon (which is excellent, and a little scary), and will begin St. Francis de Sale’s Introduction to the Devout Life next week, because I love all his writings!
    I highly recommend The Story of a Soul from Ste Therese, it is an awesome read! No wonder this woman was made a doctor of the church!

  50. jflare says:

    Well…OK, I guess I’ll read these next.
    I guess I need to write myself a note to be sure to keep my Fridays meatless for awhile. I have done this some of the time already; I find a medium pizza with garlic parmesan sauce, cheddar, and diced tomato quite tasty. I might try a few other combinations these these next few weeks.

    With regard to the books though, I completed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body last night. Talk about a LOOOONG read! I had intended to start in on Benedict’s book about the Early Church followed by the book about the Medieval Church. I think you might have a point, though with these two being more appropriate for this time of year.
    We’ll see how long it takes me to read these.

  51. Jason Keener says:

    I hope that people will also consider carrying out acts of charity as a part of their Lenten practices. Serving food to the poor, visiting the elderly in a nursing home, making a phone call to an estranged friend or relative are all possibilities.

  52. APX says:

    I’ve never understood that mardi gras silliness anyway.
    Mardi Gras is the end of a huge festival that starts after Epiphany. Mardi Gras itself is “Fat Friday” which traditionally was for the last day one had to use up any meat, milk, eggs, or animal fat products for cooking, as they weren’t permitted during Lent.

    I don’t really have anything to give up aside from my Thursday night sushi runs, so on top of that (which isn’t that difficult to give up) I’m going to make reparation for my past few years of gluttony and laziness by forcing myself to get to the gym and offer up all my suffering for the conversion of sinners.

    I’ve also started to get into the habit of doing a daily examination of conscience, along with actually praying daily, morning and night. I shall also return to weekly confession, and actually use St. Francis de Sales’ Intro to the Devout Life the way it was intended to be used, rather than the “Wow, what a good book” and then leave it to collect dust.

  53. Precentrix says:


    I don’t know about where you are, but here we’re celebrating the Annunciation on 26th March – 25th is a Sunday so the feast is transferred. If that’s the case, you can start the preparation on Ash Wednesday and it works out right.

    But Shrove Tuesday is not supposed to be a day for pigging out – it’s the day to a) confess (hie thee hence to shrift) and b) use up all the things in your cupboard that you won’t eat during Lent itself. So that last little bit of butter, those last few eggs, go into pancakes.

    I just found out today that the Thurs beforehand is the Polish equivalent for some reason. Anyone know if this is related to the Eastern Churches starting their Lent on the Monday – a Slavic leftover?

  54. catholicmidwest says:

    I plan on writing to my congressmen and senators every day to get some laws that will limit the HHS mandate. If it doesn’t work, at least I will have given them some penance as well as myself. How about that?

    PS I’ve started already.

  55. PostCatholic says:

    I plan to ignore all parts of Lent except Mardi Gras, and to continue giving up Catholicism. Dry humorless soul that I am, I’m sure you’ll think this dessicates me.

  56. jflare says:

    I don’t know if your intent will dessicate you or not. I would say, though, that you appear to me to have mostly missed the point. Saddened to hear that. My experience with other Christian faiths–or lack of faith entirely–left me pretty empty. Only when I bother to take the various tenets of Catholic faith seriously–including Lent–do I tend to be somewhat fulfilled.

    I ask God to pour as much of His grace as He can upon you, so you can better understand why.

  57. Will D. says:

    Thank you PC, for living up to your usual low standard. Carnival and Mardi Gras are not part of Lent.

    Mardi Gras itself is “Fat Friday”

    It’s Fat Tuesday, actually. Tiw and Mars were equivalent ‘gods’ of war, back in the olden days.

  58. KAS says:

    Well, my Lent will be spent in recovery from a c-section, keeping up with a newborn and a 2 yr old. I will be restricting my diet to avoiding those foods I am healthier if I avoid, which will delight my husband, and enforcing the most effective healthy diet I know: 2 pounds of low carbohydrate veggies, half raw half cooked every day, two cups of beans and only AFTER eating all that, whatever else healthy we are having at dinner. Nothing like stuffing on veggies to lose weight– and as I love many foods that I will not be eating for lent, it is a penance too.

    Spiritually, I’ll be continuing my daily blogging habit, and daily reading. I am praying about what other devotion I should add.

    Lent is possibly my very favorite of all the Liturgical seasons because I feel so much more challenged to focus on growing spiritually. Holy Week is my very favorite Liturgical Season because it is so totally focused on Christ!

  59. Lent comes earlier every year!
    Or maybe that’s just the way it seems.

  60. oblomov says:

    I’ll re read the Pope’s books on Christ, and if there is time, God willing, start on De Sale’s Introduction to the Devout Life. Cutting out meat isn’t a big sacrifice given my diet, but I will miss the occasional steak or roast. C0nfession once every two weeks instead of once every two months.

  61. Minima says:

    @Christopher M: I blogged about this topic too. Being excited to sacrifice is simply being excited to love. It would be bad if we only sacrificed when we were excited to do so; but it is not bad to be feeling excitement.

  62. Cantate says:

    I have always understood that the penances imposed upon us, or recommended to us, by the Church are the most efficacious. It used to be– pre-VAT II–that we abstained from meat on all Fridays of the year and before certain feast days; that we fasted all during Lent except Sundays. Although dispensed by my age from fasting, I think that as long as I am reasonably healthy, I should–and do–observe the old laws of fast and abstinence. Gueranger’s “Liturgical Year” volumes tell us how easy we have it, compared to earlier centuries, besides giving the history, mystery, and suggested means of keeping of the various Seasons. For me, some additional Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual reading (re-reading St. Francis deSales’ “Introduction…,” visiting patients in a nursing home, rising at 6 AM, etc., are on my list of intentions, as well as no alcohol, no desserts. Fortunately, we have the ancient rite of Mass here, and for the past 2 1/2 weeks since Septuagesima, at Mass and through wonderful sermons, we have been prompted to plan our Lenten observances.

  63. Cathy says:

    I’m considering praying the 15 prayers of St. Bridget again. I did this for a year, about 7 years ago, and a particular line in those prayers regarding the Crucifixion of Christ keeps coming back to my heart, regarding the members of His body being so distended that never was their pain like unto Thine. I guess that is a pretty good description of the Church, the Body of Christ, today. I could stand all attack from the outside world, it is the distention and sense of betrayal within that is terribly painful.

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