Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10, marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. Whether you're in a pew every Sunday or haven't been inside a church in a long time, here are the things you should know about the next 40 days.
Abstinence: All Catholics who have reached their 14th birthday are bound to abstain totally from meat on the following days: Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday.
Fasting: All Catholics between their 18th and 59th birthdays are also bound to observe the Law of Fast on the following days: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This practice involves limiting oneself to a single full meal and avoiding food between meals. Light sustenance may be taken on two other occasions in the course of the day.
Easter duty: After they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, all the faithful are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season, unless for a good reason it is fulfilled at another time during the year. This obligation may be fulfilled between Feb. 14 (First Sunday in Lent) and May 22 (Trinity Sunday).
The following should also be noted:
Reconciliation: Catholics are bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year, (Canon 989).
Other Fridays of the year: Catholics should be reminded that all other Fridays of the year remain as days of penance, in prayerful remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ.
Obligation: The obligation which we have as members of the Church to do penance is a serious one. Furthermore, the obligation to observe, as a whole or "substantially," the penitential days specified by the Church is a serious one.
While no one should hold himself or herself lightly excused, one should not become unduly scrupulous. Failure to observe individual days of penance is less serious than the failure to observe any penitential days at all or a substantial number of such days.
An invitation: In the name of peace, and in union with the bishops of our country, the faithful of this diocese are invited to add voluntary fasting to the practice of penance during the Fridays of the year. Together with works of charity and service toward our neighbors, this practice would become a sign of our commitment to conversion, reconciliation and peace, (The Challenge of Peace, Art. 298).
We welcome you to join our celebration of Lent. Please visit the diocesan parish listing for information on a church near you.