Lent Invites Us to Conversion

Updated March 10, 2023

Lent is the 40-day, penitential season of preparation for Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with the Paschal Triduum. In his 2023 Lenten Message, Pope Francis said "the Lenten journey of penance" has a goal of transformation that "has its model in the Transfiguration of Jesus and is achieved by the grace of his paschal mystery." We partake in Lent with prayerfasting and almsgiving. "Dear brothers and sisters, may the Holy Spirit inspire and sustain us this Lent in our ascent with Jesus." lea en español

History and Evolution of Lent

The concept of Lent goes back to the beginning of the Church, but the notion of a 40-day preparation can be traced to the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. which used the term, "tessarakoste," meaning “fortieth” in Greek. It is believed the reference was meant to imitate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert before his public ministry as well as the earlier examples of Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8). 

By the end of the fourth century, a penitential season of 40 days had taken root in the Church. The Latin name for the season was "quadragesima," which means "40 days." The word "lent" is primarily derived from the Old English "lencten," which means "spring." By the ninth century, Anglo-Saxons were using the term to refer to the penitential season before Easter. Over time, the meaning of 40 days became tied to the practice of fasting during Lent. By the fourth century, in most of the West, it referred to the six days’ fast per week for six weeks. (Sundays were excluded.). Today, the rules are more lenient. See our Fasting and Abstinence Guidelines to learn more.

Another key aspect of Lent is its connection to those entering the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process. From the earliest days, Christians associated Lent with the sacrament of baptism, "since Easter was the great baptismal feast." Those who were preparing for baptism participated in Lent as part of their preparation. "Eventually, those who were already baptized considered it important to join these candidates preparing for baptism in their preparation for Easter. The customs and practices of Lent, as we know them today, soon took hold." Today, bishops worldwide personally welcome all those going through RCIA in their dioceses during the Rite of Election, a special service held at the beginning of Lent. Two of these events will be held in the Diocese of Little Rock this year. Visit our calendar to find one near you.

Lenten Resources

We hope the following resources help you get the most from your Lenten journey.

10 Ways to Deepen Experience of Lent

In addition to the traditional disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent, many perform acts of penance by "giving up" something, such as chocolate, soda or social media. As an alternative, we invite you to take up a practice that you wouldn't otherwise do. It may help you experience Lent in a whole new way this year.

CRS Rice Bowl

Through CRS Rice Bowl, we journey with members of our human family around the world, and commit our Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving to deepening our faith and serving those in need.

Fasting and Abstinence Guidelines

This explains when to fast and abstain and who should do this during Lent. For more information, see "Your questions about Lent answered," or "Fasting: The goal is a transformed heart" to find out the benefits and reasons to fast.

Lent 2023: A Quiet Place for You and Jesus

This year, Arkansas Catholic focused its Lenten special section on how to create at-home prayer spaces, the tradition of fasting, Lenten recipes and Lenten activities throughout the Diocese of Little Rock, including Stations of the Cross, fish fries and penance services. And since we are in the middle of the National Eucharistic Revival, check out last year's special section that focused on the Eucharist. Learn how the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist has touched the lives of priests and laypeople, read examples of eucharistic miracles and how to show proper respect and reverence with our hearts and actions ready to match an encounter with Jesus.

Lent for Children, Teens and Young Adults

We hope these resources, which incorporate prayerfasting and almsgiving, help youth deepen their experience of Lent.

Way of the Cross: Stations and Meditations from Arkansas

These online Stations of the Cross offer reflections from Catholics in Arkansas. They are accompanied by illustrations from indoor, outdoor and live stations at churches and monasteries across the state. Together the meditations and artwork show the beauty and diversity of God's revelation to humanity.

Welcome the Strangers Among Us

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor released this pastoral letter to challenge us to open our minds and hearts to Christ's teachings as well as learn the plight of immigrants seeking a better life in the United States.