Lent Should Hurt, But We Aren’t Alone

Lent is a liturgical season brimming with immense graces. It is a time when we are called to fully re-commit our lives to God. To look honestly and with humility at those areas of our lives that are marred by habitual sins, worldly attachments, and distractions. Through this season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, we are called to deeper conversion. It is a season that should stretch us to our very limits, so that through our weakness, we can encounter the Lord who is our strength. Lent isn’t easy, but we have spiritual friends supporting us throughout the coming weeks.

Lent is an opportunity to seek greater freedom in the Lord, to repent of our sins that deeply offend Him, and to atone for the sins of others. When we examine our lives, we very quickly discover that we are slaves to our many appetites and that our bodies are not fully the radiant temples of the Holy Spirit they should be. Instead, we are ruled by pride, anger, food, lust, technology, distractions, power, control, possessions, and even relationships. All of us, upon a thorough examination of conscience, will discover that we live closer to slavery to habitual sin than the freedom Christ wants to give to us through a life of holiness that can only be won through self-denial.

As Catholics, Lent is an opportunity to abandon the lies of our culture, the devil, and our ego and body that tell us we should live only for comfort and the things of this world. This is accomplished by committing to deeper fasting. Our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters, as well as the asceticism practiced by numerous religious orders, can help us fully commit to penances and fasting this Lent. We must stop making excuses for our slavery, and instead, embrace the medicine the Lord wants to extend to us in this Lenten season.

This season should hurt. It should be very difficult because we are weak and fallen. If we have chosen something that is only mildly difficult then we have misunderstood what rending our hearts and returning the Lord truly means. Eastern Catholics embrace a form of fasting and abstinence that seeks to bring the body into submission to the much higher soul. They essentially spend the season vegan and only eat one meal a day with only a slight shift on weekends. Many religious communities practice austere fasting not only during Lent, but in the period between the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and Easter. In fact, more dedicated fasting practices were widespread in previous centuries. The Lord has used these practices to help raise up countless saints. It is something we need to reclaim in the Latin Rite. The lay faithful are capable of much more than the bare minimum. Eastern Catholics prove this every year.

As hard as it seems at times, we do not walk this period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving alone. The Lord pours out graces as we put more and more effort in. He wants us to encounter our utter weakness because it is in weakness that we begin to rely on Him not ourselves. Self-reliance is a lie that is a major obstacle to holiness. Our fasting leads to deeper encounter when we relinquish self-reliance. The freedom we attain by His grace then guides our prayer to a more profound union with the Most Holy Trinity. All of the spiritual masters have taught that we cannot progress in prayer without fasting and detachment. Self-denial is a non-negotiable aspect of growing in sanctity.

Encountering our weakness is painful and difficult. The Lord knows this, which is why He’s given us each other in the Church to help along the way. Our brothers and sisters are praying for us this Lent. Friends of mine enrolled my family and me in 40 Days of Masses, prayer, and penances with the Discalced Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. These men who have given their lives entirely to the Lord in prayer and sacrifice are offering their Lent for those enrolled through their website. These men live dedicated asceticism through fasting, penances, sacrifices, obedience, poverty, and celibacy.

Enrolling with their Lenten program means that we will not be walking through Lent alone. When our fasting and sacrifices become too much, we can remind ourselves that we are surrounded by the prayers and graces won by these holy Carmelites. The Mystical Body is one and we are fully united to each other. These men walk with us through their celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, prayers, and sacrifices each day. Those graces will help us persevere in moments of weakness and temptation.

The Norbertines at the St. Michael Abbey in California started a program called The Great Fast. They are inviting Catholics to fast in a way they may never have fasted before. To fully commit to fasting this Lent in order to grow in deeper conversion and repentance. They too will remember everyone enrolled in their program at their Masses, in prayer, and through fasting and sacrifices. They want to serve as spiritual fathers and brothers in arms as we enter into the spiritual combat of the coming weeks. These men want to see us grow spiritually and they are willing to suffer on our behalf. This powerful witness is used by Our Lord to strengthen the Mystical Body.

This Lent is an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord. To tackle addictions and sinful habits. It is a time of great conversion and progress in holiness if we surrender everything to the Lord. It is a period each year when the Church invites us to fight the good fight against the devil, our own ego, the tyranny of the body, and the things of this world. It should hurt. Not simply for the sake of pain, but so that we can be set free from slavery and move deeper into union with Christ. We are not fighting alone. We are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ who are praying and sacrificing on our behalf. May this Lent be the most fruitful of our lives thus far.


Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate with an M.A. in Theology with an emphasis in philosophy. Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G.K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths.

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