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The ABC's of Lent

Updated: Feb 14

There are many traditional ways to observe the Christian season of Lent; several of which date back centuries. However one observes Lent, we all approach the season asking ourselves “what is God asking of me,” and “what needs to change in my life in order to hear and respond to God?” In other words, what needs to change in my life so I can live out the gospel message/values that Jesus taught and demonstrated to his followers.

ALMSGIVING– one of the three pillars of the Lenten season. Giving alms, or doing charitable actions, is one of the ways we answer our baptismal call to serve those in need. It is also an act of gratitude for all that God has given us. Therefore, almsgiving flows from our celebration of the Eucharist. Many parishes offer opportunities to serve Christ in those who are suffering, those who are hungry and thirsty.

Visitation’s Social Concerns Committee works with Catholic Relief Services and their annual Rice Bowl Lenten Program where Catholics learn about how our sisters and brothers across the globe overcome hardships, and how through Lenten alms, we have the power to make the world a better place for all. You can pick up your Lenten Rice Bowl from the narthex of the church. 

ASH WEDNESDAY – is the first day of the Lenten season. The Ash Wednesday service includes the ritual of sprinkling or applying ashes on the penitent person’s head. The ashes used are the burned remnants of the previous year’s palm branches used on Passion Sunday. They remind us of our mortality and therefore our imminent return to God and need for repentance.

ABSTINENCE – as an aspect of our Lenten fasting, we abstain from meat on Fridays to remind us of the solemnity of what we will remember on Good Friday, which is the death of Jesus on the Cross. For centuries in the Western world, meat was considered the cornerstone of maintaining a well-fed life. But meat was also hard to come by and was often reserved for celebratory meals. Fish Fries are a common communal tradition where Catholics (and neighbors in the parish) gather for a shared meal on Fridays during Lent.

Visitation’s Knights of Columbus ministry organizes and cooks these communal meals in the parish hall on Fridays in Lent. Join us in Tighe Hall from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm this year on Fridays March 1 and March 22, 2024.

CONFESSION– also known as the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation, enables us to “start anew” in our relationship with God and the Church. There are usually extended hours for Confession during Lent, as well as communal penance services offered. Steps for making a Confession are:

1.       Examine your Conscience

2.       Greeting between the priest and penitent, with the Sign of the Cross

3.       Confessing your sins

4.       Priest suggests a practice of penance

5.       Penitent makes an act of contrition, expressing sorrow and asking God for forgiveness.

6.       Priest offers the Prayer of Absolution

7.       Give Thanks & Go in Peace

Visitation will celebrate the sacrament of God’s enduring mercy at a communal Penance Service on March 20, 2024 at 6:00 pm. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also offered every Saturday afternoon at 3:00 pm throughout the year.

EASTER VIGIL - is the "Mother of All Vigils." Easter Sunday, then, is the greatest of all Sundays and Eastertide is the most important of all liturgical seasons. Easter celebrates the Lord's Resurrection from the dead, culminating in his Ascension to our Father in Heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit upon the Church at Pentecost 50 days later. The Easter Vigil liturgy includes special rites such as the Service of Light and the initiation of new members into the church.

Please join us at this year's Easter Vigil on Saturday, March 30 at 8:00 pm when Visitation will baptize 3 adults and welcome 4 already baptized adults into the Catholic church.

ECUMENICAL - Lent itself, as a preparatory period, has been observed by Christians for more than 1700 years. After the Protestant reformation, some Christians rejected many of the Lenten practices as “too pagan.” But some of these traditions, long observed by generations of Catholics, have been adopted by Protestant Christians in the last century because of ecumenical dialogue and intermarriage following Vatican II. Because Ash Wednesday is not an obligatory liturgy for Catholics, some parishes offer non-Eucharistic Ash Wednesday services as a way to encourage visible unity among all Christians.


FASTING - is an ancient practice that is observed in many religious traditions. It is an aid to prayer, uniting us to the suffering of Christ and to hungry people living in our world today. The practice of “giving something up for lent” is meant to inspire a conversion of heart and mind in the person by resisting over-consumption and indulging luxuries. In this way, lent is a season of reordering our priorities. During lent we are reminded that we need continual conversion throughout life. This continual conversion is linked to our baptismal promises, and giving ourselves over to Christ and the way of life he personified.


GOOD FRIDAY – is our final journey with Jesus toward his death on a cross. It is a time for us to focus on the broken Body of Christ. It is the only day in the liturgical year where no Mass is celebrated throughout the world. The Good Friday liturgy includes a series of intercessory prayers for the whole world, as well as the veneration of the cross ritual. Tradition remembers the hours of noon as the time of day when Jesus took up his cross; and 3:00 p.m. as the moment he took his last breath. Each year, the Pope leads the Stations of the Cross devotional at the Colosseum in Rome where early Christians were persecuted and put to death.

In 2021 the Visitation Social Concerns Committee created this virtual Stations of the Cross devotional for Victims of Human Trafficking. Click to watch Visitation’s Stations of the Cross for Victims of Human Trafficking 


HOLY THURSDAY – is the liturgical memorial of Jesus’ Last Supper with his apostles and therefore also celebrates the institution of the Sacrament of Eucharist and the priesthood conferred on the apostles and their successors. The Holy Thursday Gospel always comes from the Gospel according to John which recounts the story of Jesus washing the feet of his followers as an example of what he expects from the leadership in the church. The Mass ends with the procession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

LENT or LENTEN – “40 days” beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with the Easter Triduum. The history and etymology of this word comes from the Old English word lencten, which in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic word langatīnaz which means “spring”. It is also related to German Lenz (“springtime”), which is derived from a word related to long or lengthen, because of the lengthening of daytime in the spring.

For more than a decade Visitation has collected and published a booklet of daily Scripture reflections written by parishioners, for parishioners. Click to follow each day's reflection in our "Let Us Pray" Lenten blog.


PASCHAL MYSTERY – one of the central concepts of Catholic faith relating to the “history of salvation” and the work that God the Father accomplishes on earth through his Son. Its main subject is the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Catechism states that in the liturgy of the Church which revolves around the seven sacraments, "the Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. That God's saving plan was accomplished 'once for all' by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ." (CCC 571) The large candle lit at the Easter Vigil and used for every baptism and funeral during that year is called the “Paschal Candle.”

PRAYER – is one of the three pillars of Lent. Because Lent is intended to draw us closer to Christ, prayer is an important component to the season. It is common for many churches to offer special events, lecture series and parish missions or retreats during the season. Catholic publishers print prayer resources and Catholic media companies produce Lenten video series. The Scriptures for Lent are always a good place to begin your daily prayer.

For many years Visitation parishioners have been gathering in small faith-sharing communities throughout the season of Lent to read from Scripture and discuss how the Word of God applies to our daily lives. Join Visitation's Faith Formation Team members as they facilitate a Small Lent Group "open to all." Sundays Between the Masses at 9:15 am in the Retreat Room beginning February 18, 2024. Visit our Small Groups page to learn more.

PURPLE – is the liturgical color for the season of Lent. Liturgical colors are those specific colors used for vestments and church décor within the context of Christian liturgy. The symbolism of violet, white, green, red, and other colors serve to underline moods appropriate to a season of the liturgical year or to highlight a specific holy day.


SCRUTINIES – are rituals of the church, focused on scripture passages found in the Gospel of John, that call the Elect specifically (and the larger church in general) to examine their conscience and determine where sin resides in their lives. The community does not scrutinize the Elect. The Elect are “signaled out” because they are signs for us all to follow their example of examination and conversion. These carefully chosen passages from John’s gospel are read on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent for the rite of scrutiny. These passages invite us to identify:

1.       what sin leave us empty? (John 4:5-42)

2.       what sin blinds us to truth? (John 9:1-41)

3.       from what sin do we need to be set free in order to live in right relationship with God and others? (John 11:1-45)

SORROWFUL MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY – the Rosary is a beautiful and beloved devotional prayer of the Catholic tradition. Using prayer beads, one meditates on a series of five “mysteries” drawn from events of Jesus' life as recorded in Scripture. This Catholic devotional prayer includes the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries. The Sorrowful Mysteries meditate on Jesus’ final hours of his suffering and death and are traditionally prayed on Tuesdays and Fridays. The Sorrowful Mysteries are:

1.       The Agony in the Garden

2.       The Scourging at the Pillar

3.       The Crowning with Thorns

4.       The Carrying of the Cross

5.       The Crucifixion and Death of Jesus

Visitation parishioners gather every Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. in the St. Joseph Chapel to pray a Rosary for the healing of the beloved sick in our families and community.

STATIONS OF THE CROSS – a traditional devotional that recalls the Passion (suffering) and death of Jesus. Often prayed communally on Fridays during Lent (as a nod to Good Friday), they tell the story of Jesus’ final hours before his death. Today, many Christians pray the Stations of the Cross in order to prayerfully connect Jesus’s suffering to the suffering of Christ’s Body throughout the world today.

For decades Visitation’s “Theatre at Vis” ministry has traveled to parishes to offer an original musical production called “Stations” performed by our parishioners and neighbors. Follow them on Facebook for dates and info.

TRIDUUM – is the summit of the entire Liturgical Year—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ's Paschal Mystery. The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.

The liturgical services at Visitation that take place during the Triduum are:
  • Mass of the Lord's Supper (March 28, 2024 @ 7:00 pm)

  • Good Friday of the Lord's Passion (March 29, 2024 @ 12noon)

  • Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord (Sunday, March 31 @ 8:00 am & 10:30 am)

VENERATION – part of the Good Friday liturgy is the “Veneration of the Cross” where the faithful approach the altar and show some sign of veneration to a cross held by a deacon or liturgical minister. A common act of veneration is kissing or reverently touching the wood of the cross.

Each year the Visitation Pastoral Care committee chooses one or two parish families who have suffered a particularly great loss this year and asks them to carry the Good Friday Cross through the nave of the church before laying it at the foot of the altar for veneration.


WASHING OF FEET – is a ritual included in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and recalls the example of Jesus. Following the homily, those “chosen from People of God” approach the altar to have their feet washed by the presiding priest.

Visitation’s tradition is to extend this ritual to include all the gathered assembly, having their own feet washed before turning and washing the next person’s feet.  

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