Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday: Fast and Abstinence

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.

Our observance of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 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. This year, Easter falls on Sunday, April 20, 2014.

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 that all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: 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.

In addition, Lent is about more than these individual practices. As Catholics we are all responsible to "hand on the faith" through our actions as witnessed by those who are joining us through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process.
Here are the guidelines for Fast and Abstinence:
Customarily, fasting required that a person take only one meal a day, but current Church discipline permits one to take a main meal and two lesser meals which together do not equal the main meal.

All persons who have reached their 14th birthday are bound by the law of abstinence. All adults are bound by the law of fast from their 18th to their 60th year.
---Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence from meat and meat products as well as days of fast.

---The other Fridays of Lent remain days of abstinence from meat and meat products.

---The Fridays of the year outside Lent remain days of penance, but the traditional abstinence from meat may be substituted with some other practice of voluntary self-denial or personal penance. This may be physical denial, self-restraint or acts of religion, charity or Christian witness.

Questions and Answers about Lent and Lenten Practices