Let’s make Lent a joyful season Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

Lent is a time when followers of Christ spend 40 days in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

When I was growing up, the emphasis was on “giving up” things we liked — from candy to favorite television shows. Penance and self-sacrifice are still important aspects of the Lenten season, but they may take on different forms.

editor's view by Mary C. Uhler

Simplifying our lives

For some of us who have so much, penance may mean simplifying our lives. It may mean eating out less often and preparing simple meals at home. It may mean spending time in quiet prayer, reflection, and reading instead of going out to as many movies or sporting events.

Penance might also morf into almsgiving as we clean out our drawers and closets of clothes and household items we don’t need and give them to the needy in our communities.

Lent is also a time to attend daily Mass, pray more frequent Rosaries, and visit Our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.

Operation Rice Bowl

Perhaps one of the best ways to observe Lent is by participating in Operation Rice Bowl, Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) annual Lenten program. This program combines all the elements of Lent — prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — with another component: learning.

Participants in Operation Rice Bowl make the small sacrifice of preparing simple, meatless recipes each week. They put the money they would have spent on a bigger meal into symbolic rice bowls. The money saved goes to fight global hunger and poverty. Last year Catholics raised more than $6 million through Operation Rice Bowl to fund projects in 40 countries.

Operation Rice Bowl ( provides daily reflections and learning opportunities told through the eyes of people helped by the program. One suggestion is to sign up on the Web site to receive weekly Operation Rice Bowl reflections by e-mail.

Following Jesus

In Matthew’s Gospel for Ash Wednesday, Jesus tells his disciples to pray, fast, and give alms quietly and cheerfully. Jesus says: “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. . . . when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Let’s follow Jesus’ advice this Lent and go about our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with joy and a smile on our face. I think that’s what Jesus would want us to do!