The theme for Pope Francis's Lenten messagefor 2016 is "The Works of Mercy on the Road of the Jubilee."
As he asked in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis asks that "the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more instensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God's mercy." Lent begins February 10 for Latin-rite Catholics.
In a particular way during this Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to the spiritual and corporal works of mercy that "remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit."
"God's mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn."— Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2016
During Lent, the Church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading
of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The fasting that all do
together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of
individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting
from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities.
Likewise, the giving of alms is some effort to share this world
equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the
sharing of our time and talents. Contemplate the meaning and origins of the Lenten fasting tradition in this reflection.
In Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics.
The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ's death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
On these pages, you will find a variety of suggestions and resources to help you "raise up," "sacrifice," and "offer" during this Lent and to embrace your baptismal commitment.
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent. The U.S. Bishops' statement, "God's Gift of Forgiveness: The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation" can be distributed and shared in parishes. Dioceses are encouraged to make the sacrament available often during Lent and to use these resources to promote participation. We also have resources to help individuals who have not been to confession in a while "rediscover" the sacrament.