WHAT IS SEPTUAGESIMA? – Adult Faith Office

Diocese of Thunder Bay Crest

Septuagesima is the name of a Pre-Lent Liturgical season that was included in the Liturgical Year prior to Vatican II.  It started approximately 70 days before Easter and included the 3 Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday.  In 2021, Septuagesima Sunday was January 31, 2021.  Vatican II called for the Liturgical Year to be revised in order to return to essentiality and to restore the central character of the Paschal Mystery.

Therefore, Septuagesima was removed from the calendar and these 3 Sundays were included in what is now called Ordinary Time.

Even though this Liturgical season is no longer part of the Roman Calendar,  I rather like the idea of preparing for Lent.  I tend to be a bit haphazard in my preparation, and I have been known to be scrambling at noon on Ash Wednesday considering my options for potential Lenten observances with absolutely no consideration of how God might want to grow me this Lent.

I recently watched a webinar by Dan Burke on Septuagesima, the goal of which was to determine what is God’s will for me for Lent. Below are concepts from the webinar, which I found helpful and perhaps some of you will as well.

Dan described this Pre-Lent season as a time of prayerful preparation for Lent and a significant year of spiritual progress.  Lent should be a serious time of ascetical discipline where we are drawing our hearts and minds evermore deeply to the Lord so we have a powerful purifying experience during Lent that then affects the entirety of our year.  In preparing for this we can consider some reflection questions about the past year.  What are our failings?  What could we have done better? What are patterns of problems in the past year? What to do moving forward…

The idea of Septuagesima is that as you approach Lent, you can begin to pare back things that are sensory stimulants or positive things to your lower nature.   This will help you better evaluate what God desires for you.  We should seek the pardon of God by going to confession with a firm purpose of amendment.  When we sin we are saying no to God, and no to his plan.  Habitual sin is when a person goes to confession, confesses a particular sin, goes home and commits the same sin week after week.  This is not God’s will for us. He does not want you or me to be a slave to sin.  He wants us to be free.  That is why he gave his life. There is nothing more important to deal with than habitual sin.  If habitual sin is something you struggle with, this is God’s will for you this Lent…to be freed from the habitual sin.  Cooperate with God and he pours out his grace. Lent is powerful because there are so many graces available to you to make much progress and overcome sin like at no other time.

How do we break through this barrier to get free of habitual sin?

Daily mental prayer and daily examine Mental prayer acts as a suppressant to sin and a growth agent to virtue and all fruits of the Holy Spirit. You are spending time with Jesus in total, holy, self-giving attention on the other.

Daily examine helps you to stay attuned to the patterns in your life whether they be sinful or good. When you become more aware of the patterns, you are no longer enslaved to them.

Deliberate battle against sin, find out your root sin (see resources below), frequent confession and reception of the Eucharist

Focus on Two Things:

  1. One thing that you will gloriously and joyfully abandon at the feast of the Resurrection.
  2. One thing that you will retain as a spiritual focal point for the remainder of the year.

Getting Serious:

  1. Make a solemn commitment and write it out addressed to God
  2. Ask the Lord for the grace you need to fulfill your commitment
  3. Use internal (daily examine) and external accountability (regular confession)

Daily Prayer for Strength and Commitment

My beloved Jesus, my Lord and my strength, please help me to keep my commitments to you.  You are the vine, the source of any good that I can do or pursue.  Apart from you, I can do nothing.  With You, I can accomplish all You ask of me.  By your grace, I resolve to do all that I can to keep my commitments to You, and to rise and fight again no matter how many times I fall.  I also commit to bring each failure and success to You.  For my successes I will offer You my gratitude.  For my failures I will offer You my humility and desire to get up and fight again. I thank You that You have promised to “be faithful to complete the work” you have started in me. Lord Jesus, I trust in You.

Suggested Resources:

Into the Deep by Dan Burke- learning about the person of Jesus in the Gospels

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Better Part by Fr. John Bartunek.  For daily reflections on the Gospels that are applicable, powerful and insightful. There is an app available to download if you prefer as the book is expensive.

Finding God Through Meditation by St Peter of Alcanthara.  If you have a practice of mental prayer already, this book will take you deeper.

Spiritual Warfare: Discernment of Spirits by Dan Burke. Good if you struggle with peace or anxiety

Navigating the Interior Life by Dan Burke.  This book will help you discover your root sin. Everybody has one.

The Seven Deadly Sins: A Thomistic Guide to Vanquishing Vice and Sin by Kevin Vost

The Holy Bread of Eternal Life by Peter. Kwasniewski

How to Make a Good Confession by Fr. John A. Kane


The Better Part- this can be used with the 40 day mental prayer challenge (see website below)

The Contemplative Rosary


Spiritualdirection.com/40days for a 40 day mental prayer challenge to go along with the app above

ApostoliViae.org-blog for more information.  There a free course on this website on ridding yourself of habitual sin.  There is also an examine on this website: www.apostoliviae.org/Exam

Hannah Hay