The Three Pillars of Lent

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are fundamental practices in the life of a Catholic. They are performed with even more intensity during the season of Lent, a time of radical conversion and spiritual devotion.

The season of Lent is inspired by the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, allowing the devil to tempt him with food, treasure, and power. The fact that Jesus did not give in to these temptations foreshadows his victory over sin and death at Easter.

Imitating Jesus and practicing the Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving helps man to detach from worldly things, turn away from sin, and follow God more closely while building up virtues that help him resist temptation.

Fasting overcomes the desires of the flesh, provided it is done with a spirit of repentance. Catholics exercise self-denial, recognizing that everything comes from God and should not be taken for granted. Fasting can include eating less food or even giving up certain habits or activities.

Giving alms and performing other acts of charity helps to detach from earthly possessions while imitating Jesus by showing love toward others. This can include donating money and service to the Church, a food bank, other charities, and even to friends or other neighbors in need.

Prayer shows dependence on God and builds up the virtue of humility. Spending time in solitude and silence while reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Stations of the Cross, meditating on the Passion, or spending time before the Blessed Sacrament overcomes pride and decreases the tendency to focus on one’s self.

Three pillars of preparation:


Spiritual pillars of the entire season:

Bridgeport Diocese

Supporting the journey from ashes to the Resurrection:


“When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Matthew 6: 2-8, 16-18

Three practices handed down from Jesus himself:

CYM Perth Media

Practices directed by Jesus in order to overcome temptation:

Catholic Productions

Fasting means abstinence from food but includes other forms of privation for a more modest life. However, all this is not yet the full reality of fasting: it is an outer sign of an inner reality, of our commitment, with God’s help, to abstain from evil and to live by the Gospel. Those who are unable to nourish themselves with the word of God do not fast properly. In the Christian tradition fasting is closely linked to almsgiving. St Leo the Great taught in one of his Discourses on Lent: “All that each Christian is bound to do in every season he must now do with greater solicitude and devotion in order to fulfil the apostolic prescription of Lenten fasting consistently, not only in abstinence from food but also and above all from sin. Furthermore, with this holy fasting which is only right, no work may be more fruitfully associated than almsgiving which, under the one name of ‘mercy’, embraces many good works. The field of works of mercy is immense. It is not only the rich and the well-off who can benefit others with almsgiving, but also those of modest means and even the poor. Thus, although their futures differ, all may be the same in the soul’s sentiments of piety”. St Gregory the Great recalled in his Pastoral Rule that fasting is sanctified by the virtues that go with it, especially by charity, by every act of generosity, giving to the poor and needy the equivalent of something we ourselves have given up. Lent, moreover, is a privileged period for prayer. St Augustine said that fasting and almsgiving are “the two wings of prayer” which enable it to gain momentum and more easily reach even to God.

Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 19 March 2011

Putting faith into action:


The holy violence of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving:

Ascension Presents

The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1438

Required of Catholics during Lent:

ICON Ministry

When, not if:

Fr. Dan O’Reilly Online

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

The lifelong journey of conversion:


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