Lent comes from an Old English word meaning “springtime”. In preparation for the new life of Easter, which Catholic Christians experience through baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, those preparing to celebrate these sacraments, or mysteries, spend 40 days praying, fasting, and giving alms. As a sign of solidarity with these catechumens and candidates, fully initiated Catholics enter into a special period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – using this time to reflect upon their own baptismal calling. Essentially, Catholic Christians attempt to discern how they have been living as disciples of Christ. Thus, Lent takes on a penitential character, which stems from our shared realization that we are sinners and do not always act as images of Christ.
The sacrament of reconciliation or confession takes on a prominent role within the Lenten season. Reconciliation provides many Catholics with an opportunity to ask forgiveness for deliberate, freely chosen actions that have damaged relationship with others – with God, brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow human beings, and nature. This is also an opportunity to renew and recommit ourselves to our baptismal calling. Through the waters of baptism, we become members of the Body of Christ. In the sacrament of reconciliation, we celebrate our commitment to this baptismal gift.