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Lent: A test of will for some, an act of devotion for others

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Chocolate fans are being urged to give it up to raise charity funds

Chocolate fans are being urged to give it up to raise charity funds

Chocolate fans are being urged to give it up to raise charity funds

The last pancake of Shrove Tuesday has been flipped and devoured.

And now it's time for many to face the next 40 days with a spirit of discipline and abstinence.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, the period of six weeks (40 days not including Sundays) leading up to Easter, the most important festival in the Christian calendar.

From today, millions around the world will be testing their discipline and cleansing their soul, usually by giving up something, as one way of acknowledging the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert.

It is a time of fasting and abstinence for the pious among us but non-religious people also often use Lent as a chance to give up bad habits, avoid alcohol and start weight loss programmes ahead of the chocolate eggs extravaganza in April. The Catholic Church is embracing social media this Lenten season. Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin has launched a new Facebook page for Lent 2015 and is encouraging people "to join in the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #lent and #lent2015."

"I love the phrase which Pope Francis uses in his Message for Lent this year and where he describes Lent as a time for 'formation of the heart,'" he said.

"During this Lenten season I invite everyone to look into their heart, see the things which might be closing our heart to God's love and make a special effort to open ourselves up to the grace that God offers during this Lenten season."

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