As another Lenten journey of conversion begins with Ash Wednesday on February 22, and ends with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 6, Holy Mother Church calls all Catholics to a deeper spirit of penance, fasting, almsgiving and prayer, “which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (Catechism of the Catholic Church Nos. 1434 and 1969).
To foster a greater spirit of penance, of reparation for sin, to encourage self-denial, and so guide us more closely in the footsteps of Christ, Holy Mother Church reminds us of the following obligations of fast and abstinence during Lent and also admonishes us all to deeper prayer and worship.
Abstinence: all persons who have already celebrated their 14th birthday are bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday.
Fasting: everyone, from the celebration of their 18th birthday to their 59th birthday, is bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting is generally understood to mean eating only one full meal each day. Two other partial meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken; but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed. Voluntary fasting on other weekdays of Lent is highly recommended. But please note: when health or ability to work would be seriously affected, neither the law of fasting nor the law of abstinence obliges. These are minimal penitential practices and should not be lightly excused. If in doubt, please consult your parish priest. Other recommended forms of fasting, as regards alcoholic drink, needless television, video games, internet use, and social entertainment, are of true spiritual value and strongly encouraged.
Almsgiving: The act of giving to the poor, in the most ancient tradition of the Church, is an expression of penance, a witness of fraternal charity, and an expression of Lenten conversion. Therefore, all Catholics are encouraged to support generously the charitable works of the whole Church: through regular stewardship to their parish and support of charities.
Prayer: In order to deepen one’s love for Christ, Catholics are urged all the more to participate in the sacramental life of the Church during Lent by attending daily Mass and frequenting the Sacrament of Penance.