Church law considers every Friday and the season of Lent as penitential days and times. The practice of penance is a part of our faith and Christian life. When we do penance, we imitate Jesus, who Himself recommended it as necessary to His followers, and gave them the example of His prayer and fasting.

The Lenten obligation, as determined for Catholics in the United States by our bishops, requires that fasting be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The law of abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.

Who must fast?

All Catholics who are between the ages of 18 and 59. The obligation ceases when one begins his/her 60th year on his/her 59th birthday.

Who must abstain?

All Catholics who are 14 years and older.

What does fasting mean?

The observance of fasting means that those obliged may take only one full meal on the day of fast. Two lighter meals (not equal to another full meal) may be taken to maintain strength according to one’s needs.

What does abstinence mean?

The law of abstinence forbids the eating of meat, including poultry. Voluntary abstinence refers to refraining from lawful pleasures in a spirit of penance.

Can anyone be dispensed or excused from fast and/or abstinence?

Individuals for a just cause may be dispensed by their pastor or by a priest with the faculty to do so. In our Diocese all priests may dispense individuals who are committed to their pastoral care. Those who are ill or have a similar serious reason are excused from the observance of fast and abstinence. Catholics are reminded that they should not lightly excuse themselves from this obligation.

Are there other obligations which we should fulfill?

Catholics are obliged to fulfill what has been called their “Easter Duty.” They are required to receive Holy Communion during the Easter time. In the United States this obligation can be fulfilled from the First Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday (March 9 until June 15, 2014). Those conscious of serious sin are reminded of the obligation to confess their sins at least once a year during this time.

Catholics also are encouraged to make Lent a time of more intense prayer and to practice almsgiving and other works of charity. Parishes are encouraged to continue participation in Operation Rice Bowl.