The following are but a few resources to help you better understand and successfully utilize the season of Lent for your personal spiritual growth:
Fasting with the Church
Catholics in good health who are 14 and older are obliged to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. In addition, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics from age 18-59 must fast, and limit themselves to one full meal and two smaller meals each day. You may want to voluntarily fast or abstain from other foods or activities, perhaps making an offering to charity of the money they would have otherwise spent for food, drink or recreation.
Find a form of fasting that is appropriate for you, given your age, state of health, and state of life.
- Some fast on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays.
- Some fast from sweets, smoking, or alcohol throughout Lent.
- Some fast on one or more days per week from breakfast all the way to dinner, spending lunch hour in prayer or at noon Mass.
- Some cut out all snacks between meals.
The money saved from not buying various things should be given to an apostolate or ministry serving the physically or spiritually poor.
* Two elements especially characteristic of Lent should be emphasized: the recalling of Baptism, or preparation for it, and Penance. In this way, the Church prepares the faithful to celebrate the Paschal Mystery and the feast of the Resurrection.
* The elements of penance–conversion–are not only the social consequences of sin but also the detestation of sin as an offense against God. During Lent penance should not only be internal but also external and social. Prayer for conversion and reconciliation in and with the Church should be encouraged.
Abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. All persons are bound by the law of the Church to abstain from the day after their 14th birthday.
The Church’s law of fast binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The law of fasting obliges from the day after one’s 18th birthday until the day after one’s 59th birthday. Fasting means that one full meatless meal per day may be eaten. Two other meatless meals may be taken sufficient to maintain strength, but together they should not equal a full meal. Liquids, including milk and fruit juice, may be taken between meals. If health or ability to work are affected, fasting does not oblige. Private, self-imposed observance of fasting on all weekdays of Lent is strongly recommended. Pastors and parents are to see to it that children who are not bound by the laws of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance, conversion, and reconciliation.
As is traditional, increased opportunity to participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy, and in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, should be provided. Other devotions, such as the Stations of the Cross, vigils, and prayer services (with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament if opportune), are encouraged. The traditional private practices of increased prayer, Scripture reading, Stations of the Cross, spiritual reading, alms, personal self-denial in food and drink, and increased care and service to the sick and needy are suggested.
Easter Duty Holy Communion
All the faithful, after they have been initiated into the most holy Eucharist, are bound by the obligation of receiving Communion at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter Season unless it is fulfilled for a just cause at some time during the year. In the United States of America the Easter Season is considered as the period from the first Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday.
Sacrament of Penance
A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind and in number all serious sins committed after Baptism and not yet directly remitted through the keys of the Church or acknowledged in individual confession, of which one is conscious after diligent examination of conscience. It is recommended to the Christian faithful that venial sins also be confessed. After having attained the age of discretion each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.