Seven Saint Quotations to Encourage You in Lent

John Kubasak

Seven Saint Quotations to Encourage You in Lent

Lent has begun! For those who have gotten off to a rocky start, take heart. No matter how many times we fail with Lenten practices, the important thing is to get back up and recommit. For those in a good rhythm, don’t ease up and keep the momentum going. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (see Hebrews 12:1) who are cheering us on from heaven. Whether it has started with a whimper or enthusiasm, here are a collection of quotes for inspiration.  


“Pray, pray very much! The Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you. Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High. (…) Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country.” 

–the Angel of Portugal to the three shepherd children at Fatima

The formula for a good Lent involves sacrifice. It is all the more important when we live in a culture that prioritizes trivialities, comfort, and avoiding suffering at all costs.  

What’s striking to me about the angel’s words is that conversion draws down peace upon our country. Peace is not the absence of war; it is when grace conquers sin. What we do in Lent has an effect that goes far beyond ourselves.  


“The beginner must think of himself as of one setting out to make a garden in which the Lord is to take His delight, yet in soil most unfruitful and full of weeds.” –St. Teresa of Avila, Autobiography pg. 127

Anyone who has planted flowers or food in a garden knows the work it entails. Growing food or flowers in the earth is a great image for the spiritual life. Our Lord uses it Himself in parables. Take a moment to consider our souls as a garden.  

St. Teresa points out two truths in this quote. First and most importantly, the garden is for Jesus in which to take delight. Our souls are made for God! If we try to fill them with anything else, it will never be enough. Second, the garden of our soul needs weeding. Just like weeds can overwhelm a garden, sin can overwhelm spiritual growth in our soul.  


“The spirit of the world affects our inner propensity to give ourselves unselfishly to others and drives us to satisfy our own particular interests. The desire to possess ever more is encouraged. Surely it is natural and right that people, by using their own gifts and by their own labor, should work to obtain what they need to live, but an excessive desire for possessions prevents human beings from being open to their Creator and to their brothers and sisters.” –Pope St. John Paul II, message for Lent 2003

The Church urges us to focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Almsgiving has a different aim than mere altruism. Christian almsgiving has a different character than the financial donations of an atheist.  Almsgiving is an exercise of letting go what can come between us and God. Possessions do not necessarily come between us and God, but they can definitely turn into obstacles… subtlely and swiftly. 


“Relying, therefore, dearly beloved, on so great a promise, be heavenly not only in hope, but also in conduct. And though our minds must at all times be set on holiness of mind and body, yet now during these 40 days of fasting bestir yourselves to yet more active works of piety, not only in the distribution of alms, which are very effectual in attesting reform, but also in forgiving offenses, and in being merciful to those accused of wrongdoing, that the condition which God has laid down between Himself and us may not be against us when we pray. For when we say, in accordance with the Lord's teaching, forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12), we ought with the whole heart to carry out what we say. –Pope St. Leo the Great, Sermon 46

St. Leo the Great references the Lord’s Prayer, reminding us not to neglect forgiveness. When he exhorts us to forgive with “the whole heart,” he’s not talking about the guy that cut me off in traffic yesterday.  He’s talking about the times where every fiber in our being wants to hold onto bitterness. He’s pointing to those times where it is very hard to forgive. Jesus asks us to trust Him, let go of our anguish, and forgive. God’s grace is stronger than whatever our emotions tell us. 


“Since He is good, and especially to those who are faithful to Him, let us hold fast to Him with all our soul, our heart, our strength, and so enjoy his light and see his glory and possess the grace of supernatural joy.  Let us reach out with our hearts to possess that good, let us exist in it and live in it, let us hold fast to it, that good which is beyond all we can know or see and is marked by perpetual peace and tranquility, a peace which is beyond all we can know or understand.”–St. Ambrose, Treatise on Flight from the World, Office of Readings, Saturday of the 2nd week of Lent

In fasting, we do not simply give something up.  If that’s the case with Lent for you, you’re doing it wrong!  We give up good things in order to make room in our hearts for God.   


“I know what is in your heart, I know your loneliness and all your wounds, the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you could share My strength and My victory. I know, above all, your need for love, how much you are thirsting for love and tenderness. Yet, how many times have you desired to satisfy your thirst in vain, seeking that love with selfishness, trying to fill the void within you with passing pleasures, with the even greater emptiness of sin.…I THIRST FOR YOU.” –St. Teresa of Calcutta’s “I Thirst” letter, written as Jesus talking to us

This letter is worth reading and rereading during Lent. Remember Jesus and all He sacrificed in His Passion… for you and me. Jesus loves us to a degree that we cannot fathom. That can be a tough thing to get convinced of; take in this letter and allow the words to sink deep. For an audio version, check out Fr. John Riccardo reading the letter. 


“Let us watch, fast, and pray, let us keep close under the wings of the Almighty, that He may be our shield and buckler. Let us pray Him to make known to us His will,—to teach us our faults,—to take from us whatever may offend Him,—and to lead us in the way everlasting. And during this sacred season, let us look upon ourselves as on the Mount with Him—within the veil—hid with Him—not out of Him, or apart from Him, in whose presence alone is life, but with and in Him—learning of His Law with Moses, of His attributes with Elijah, of His counsels with Daniel—learning to repent, learning to confess and to amend—learning His love and His fear—unlearning ourselves, and growing up unto Him who is our Head.”–St. John Henry Newman, Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent

Newman speaks of the Transfiguration in this section of his sermon. One of the things that stands out to me in this quote is that God’s will leads us in the way everlasting life. It’s a rather obvious point, but this is another thing that can take a while to penetrate our hearts. When it comes to my will versus God’s will (in simple cases like whether to sin or not to sin), I have chosen my own will more times than I can count. Where has that led me?  Conversely, when I follow after my Lord, that leads to everlasting life. And when we follow Him, we do so “with and in Him.” What a gift!


May the Lord’s grace open all of our hearts to have the best Lent of our lives!