Lent is the 40-day season of penance in preparation for the celebration of the greatest event in human history: the redemption of the human race by Jesus Christ. Lent begins Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017 and ends on Thursday, April 13, followed by the Sacred Triduum, April 13-15, and Easter Sunday, April 16.
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“All Christians, by the nature of their lives, are obliged to live in a spirit of penance whereby our exterior acts of prayer, self-denial and charity bear witness to the inner values of our Faith.”
The Church specifies certain practices of penance during the season of Lent.
- Self-imposed observance of fasting on all weekdays of Lent is strongly recommended.
- Catholics are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, March 1 and Good Friday, April 14.
- The Fridays of Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.
- Catholics age 14 and older are bound by the law of abstinence.
- The law of abstinence forbids the eating of meat.
- The law of fasting is obligatory for Catholics from the age of 18 to 59.
- The law of fasting prescribes that only one full meal be taken per day; the other meals should be significantly smaller, but in accord with one’s health needs. Fasting assumes avoidance of food between meals.
The “substantial observance” of these laws is a grave obligation; that is:
- Anyone who neglects all forms of penance, or deliberately shows contempt for the Church’s penitential discipline, may be guilty of serious sin.
- Occasional failure to observe penitential regulations is not seriously sinful.
- Proportionately grave circumstances – sickness, dietary needs, social obligation – excuse from the obligation of fast and abstinence, but not from seeking out other forms of penance.