February 27, 2017
Lent 2017: Observing the Disciplines of This Penitential Season | A Faithful Catholic’s Guide
From its earliest days, the Church has urged the baptized and catechumens to observe the threefold discipline of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer as a preparation for the celebration of Easter. Failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious, but failure to observe penitential days (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent) must be considered serious.
The penitential season of Lent begins this year on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. The sixth Sunday of Lent, April 9th, marks the beginning of Holy Week and is known as Passion (or Palm) Sunday. Lenten Regulations are summarized as follows:
Abstinence from meat is to be observed on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent by all Catholics 14 years of age and older. It should be noted also that “the Fridays of the year outside of Lent remain days of penance, but each individual may substitute for the traditional abstinence from meat some other practice of voluntary self-denial or personal penance: this may be physical mortification or temperance or acts of religion, charity or Christian witness.”
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, all Catholics who are 18 years of age but not yet 59 years of age are bound to take only one full meatless meal. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs; but together they should not equal another full meal. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, therefore, are the only days of both fast and abstinence.
People should seek to do more rather than less; fast and abstinence on the days prescribed; works of religion and charity on the Fridays outside Lent should be considered a minimal response to the Lord’s call to penance and conversion of life. During Lent, the Church encourages attendance at daily Mass, prayer, private visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, self-imposed times of fasting, and generosity to local, national, and worldwide programs of sharing (almsgiving). May this holy season of Lent, with Christ our Savior as our guide, be a profound opportunity of spiritual growth and grace for our parish.
Suggested Lenten observances
Attending Daily Mass:
The most effective way to confirm and strengthen our union with the Lord has been and continues to be through participation at the holy sacrifice of the Mass. This Eucharistic encounter is the foundation for all our other relationships.
Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
This sacrament of the Church is a visible and real manifestation of the presence of Jesus in our lives. Through the ministry of the priest, Jesus forgives our sins and strengthens us to be able to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
Praying the Rosary:
In reciting the Hail Mary of every bead, Mary helps us to meditate upon the very life of Christ which brought about our salvation. In keeping with her revered role, Mary leads us to her Son.
The Stations of the Cross:
This devotion is a very powerful meditation upon Christ’s sufferings, which paved the way for our redemption. As we follow that route to Calvary, we cannot but help to appreciate the tremendous love of Jesus for us, a love so great that no amount of suffering would cause it to falter.
Care for the Poor and the Needy:
In contemplating the sacrificial love of Christ for us during this season, we are reminded that we must be conscious of caring for our brothers and sisters in need. During Lent, the annual collection is taken up for the Catholic Relief Services, which assists so many in desperate situations. Through this endeavor, we experience the universality of the Church, which extends her heart and arms to those so much less fortunate than ourselves. Many parishes use the “Rice Bowl” as a vehicle to nurture support for this collection.
Fasting and Penance:
In realizing the hunger and poverty so present in our world, fasting and penance are time-honored practices which not only develop a disciplined spirit but also help us to concentrate on the essential realities of life and to remove that clutter which interferes with our relationship with God. The less self-indulgent we are, the more we become conscious of the sufferings of others.
In his first Lenten Message in 2006, Pope Benedict XVI, wrote: “In the face of the terrible challenge of poverty afflicting so much of the world’s population, indifference and self-centered isolation stand in stark contrast to the ‘gaze’ of Christ. Fasting and almsgiving, which, together with prayer, the Church proposes in a special way during the Lenten Season, are suitable means to become conformed to this ‘gaze.’”
Deepen Our Understanding of the Catholic Faith through Study:
Reading the holy Scriptures, studying the Catechism of the Church, attending adult-education courses and Bible studies are all ways of enriching our knowledge of what it means to be a Catholic. Inviting our brothers and sisters estranged from the Church to please come home, to rediscover God’s love for them and to renew their relationship with Him in the Church.