The entire season of Lent, from
Ash Wednesday, March 1
Holy Thursday, April 13
is a penitential season, a time for self-denial, prayer, and Christian charity. During this season, you are strongly encouraged
- to participate in Mass and receive Holy Communion daily,
- to receive the Sacrament of Penance,
- to attend Lenten devotions and the Stations of the Cross,
- to read the Scriptures prayerfully, and
- to perform acts of self-denial and works of mercry.
Lent is a time of spiritual renewal and repentance, intended to bring us closer to God. Lent is marked by times of fast and abstinence, almsgiving, efforts to increase and enrich our prayer life, and assorted efforts to act in a more Christian manner.
"Have mercy, Lord, we have sinned," tthe Church prays on Ash Wednesday. May the awareness of our sinfulness urge us to respond to Christ's teaching of our need to do penance.
Fast and Abstinence
: On Fridays during Lent, Catholics 14 years of age and older are obliged to abstain from meat (this does not include eggs, milk products, or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat.). It does include soup and gravy made from meat.
: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence. All Catholics from age 18 through 59 are restricted to one full meal. Two lesser meals are permitted, not equaling the primary meal. All meals must be meatless.
all other Fridays
, outside of Lent, are designated as
Days of Penance
, but each individual may substitute for the traditional abstinence from meat some other practice of voluntary self-denial as penance. This may be physical mortification or acts of religion, charity or Christian witness.
The obligation to observe the laws of fast and abstinence "substantially" (or as a whole) is a serious obligation. Failure to observe one penitential day in itself is not considered serious. It is the failure to observe any penitential days at all, or a substantial number of days, that must be considered serious.
The obligation, the privilege really, of receiving the Eucharist at least once a year—pften called the "Easter Duty"—for those in the state of grace should still be fulfilled during the period from the
First Sunday of Lent, March 5
Trinity Sunday, June 11
.However, the Church's law does permit this precept to be fulfilled at another time during the year when there is a just cause.
For more information, including details about what is included in abstaining from "meat," see the following pages:
The annual observance of Lent is the special season for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter. Through its twofold theme of repentance and baptism, Lent disposes both the catechumens (those preparing for baptism) and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies, and catechesis. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.
- Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Suppoer exclusive on Holy Thursday.
- Fridays are days of abstience from meat, and Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence.
- All memorials of saints occurring during Lent are observed as optional. Hence, they may be omitted or observed as commemorations. (An exception is made for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, on March 19.)
- The vestments worn by the priest and deacon are violet in color.
- The Gloria of the Mass is omitted.
- The Alleluia is not sung or said from the beginning of Lent until the Easter Vigil.
- The altar is not decorated with flowers and musical instruments are played only to give necessary support to singing. (An exception to this rule is made on the 4th Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday) and for Solemnities and Feasts.)
- Weddings taking place should refrain from too much pomp and display.