Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (this year March 1, 2017) and ends on Holy Thursday (this year April 13, 2017). On the evening of Holy Thursday the Sacred Triduum begins.
The 40 days of Lent correspond to the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness to fast, pray, and endure the temptations of the devil, all in preparation for his public ministry which would culminate in his death on the cross.
“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” -Pope Benedict XVI
This year the Holy Father, Pope Francis offers us a new Lenten theme, entitled, “The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift.” The following is an extract from his letter:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us. Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).
Dear friends, Lent is the favourable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbour. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favour the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter. (Pope Francis, October 2016).
One such Church organisation is CAFOD, an international development charity and the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales. Each year they produce an interactive Lenten Calendar (below) which supports and guides us through the Season. These beautiful reflections on Scripture are offered by CAFOD staff and volunteers. They ask that we please remember our sisters and brothers around the world in our prayers this Lent.