Our observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday which falls on Feb. 17th this year. It is a day of fast and abstinence for Catholics. At Mass on Ash Wednesday, the imposition of ashes replicates an ancient penitential practice and symbolizes our dependence upon God’s mercy and forgiveness.
The three traditional pillars of Lenten observance are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The church asks us to surrender ourselves to prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. The fasting we all do together on Fridays, is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and household 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.
The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not only to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of your hearts and minds as followers ofChrist. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the traditional pillars of our Lenten observance. Lent encourages us to place special emphasis on prayer-both personal prayer and praying together as God’s people. The time of Lent offers a heightened awareness of almsgiving works of justice and charity, and tending to those who are in need.
Fasting and abstinence challenge us to avoid attachments to the “things” of this world.
All between the ages of 18 and 59 are to fast on AshWednesday and Good Friday.
All who are 14 and older observe abstinence on AshWednesday and each Friday of Len. All others are encouraged to fast and abstain in ways appropriate to their circumstances.
Fasting means one full meal each day with the other meals not equaling a full meal. Eating between meals is not allowed, but liquids are allowed.
Abstinence means that no meat is allowed. If health or ability to work would be seriously affected, fast and abstinence do not apply.