New initiatives aim to help Catholics enrich prayer, giving during Lent


WASHINGTON (CNS) — What do a
new social media campaign, a new fundraiser and new features for a popular app have
in common?

Launched by different Catholic
organizations for Lent, the three efforts aim to help Catholics enrich their
Lenten prayer experience, sacrifice to help others in need and learn more about
the church’s penitential season overall.

Chicago-based Catholic Extension
announced development of a social media campaign that will create a video chain
of Lenten mercy prayers.

“The three pillars of Lent
are fasting, prayer and charity,” it said, and the new campaign “is
promoting the second pillar and asking American Catholics to focus their Lenten
prayers on mercy” during the church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

Extension’s “National Year
of Mercy Prayer” — launched Feb. 10, Ash Wednesday, and running all through
Lent — is asking people to share their prayer intentions through short digital
videos. The website invites Catholics to use their
smartphones to record short videos — about 10 seconds long — of themselves
stating a simple prayer intention followed by “Lord, have mercy.”

A short introductory video
posted on the website asks people to “help us harness the power of prayer
to change the world.” Examples in that video include: “For college
students and young adults seeking to discern their place in the world, Lord
have mercy”; “For the wisdom to see Christ in the stranger, Lord have
mercy”; and “For my family and the unity of all families, Lord have

“Your intention can be as
general or specific as you would like,” the announcement says. But it also
tells people to “remember that it will be made public and posted online as
a part of our prayer.”

Catholic Extension, which supports
the work and ministries of U.S. mission dioceses, asked people to send their
brief videos to “and to spread the word
to their families, friends and parishes.” Participants were encouraged to
post their intentions on social media; other intentions can be viewed using the
hashtag #MercyPrayer.

The final video prayer and full
list of intentions will be posted on Catholic Extension’s website,, and its social media on the first Sunday after
Easter, April 3, which is Divine Mercy Sunday.

The Knights of Columbus, based
in New Haven, Connecticut, is asking those considering a Lenten sacrifice to give “40
Bucks for Lent” and use the hashtag #40BucksForLent to help Middle Eastern
Christians and other religious minorities suffering religious persecution in
that region of the world.

“Since many people give up
something for Lent, we wanted to provide an opportunity for their sacrifice to
make a difference — not only in their own life, but in the lives of others,”
said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson in a Feb. 9 statement. 

“During the
Lenten season, we recall Christ’s suffering and death,” he said. “In turn, remembering and
assisting those who are today suffering and dying for their belief in Christ is
an excellent way to do good where it is most needed and to enter more deeply
into the spirit of this season.”

The Knights of Columbus began
its Christian Refugee Relief Fund in 2014. To date, nearly $10 million has been
raised to provide housing, food, medical aid, education and general relief to
persecuted Christians and other religious minorities especially from Iraq and
Syria, and to raise awareness about their plight.

In Denver, the Fellowship of
Catholic University Students, known as FOCUS, has added several new features to
its Lentsanity app this Lenten season.

The app features illustrated
guides, daily Mass readings and reflective articles for Lent. The app-exclusive
Meat Police Early Warning System sends reminders to abstain from meat on Ash
Wednesday and Fridays during Lent.

The Lentsanity app can be
downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app also can be
accessed at

Launched in 2014, the FOCUS app shares
several illustrated guides to the Catholic faith — including on topics such as
Lenten fasting and abstinence; “lectio divina,” the prayerful reading
of Scripture; solemnities, feasts and memorials; and the Triduum. Three new
guides are set to be released for the app: on the Stations of the Cross
(Feb. 18); confession (Feb. 21) and acts of mercy (March 7).

The Confession Week features
will start Feb. 21 with a #ConfessionConfession mini-campaign to inspire people
to share their experiences with the sacrament. It will include a contest for
creating and sharing #ConfessionConfession videos.

The app and website will include
a Confession FAQ and Examination of Conscience megapost with links to different
types of examinations.

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