The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 5. Lent is the penitential time of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and personal sacrifice meant to draw Christians more deeply into the sacred mystery of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
On Ash Wednesday, the traditional distribution of ashes will take place at parishes throughout the archdiocese, often during the celebration of Mass or immediately afterward. The Church requires that ashes be distributed only in a sacred place such as a church or chapel.
“Once again we call your attention to the fact that Ash Wednesday is a day which offers us valuable opportunities to set a tone for the season of Lent and to reach out to people, some of whom are not often found in our churches,” Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh, vicar general, wrote in a letter to pastors of the archdiocese Jan. 10.
During Lent, the Church calls the faithful to bring a spirit of penance into their lives through fasting and abstinence.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. All Fridays in Lent are days of abstinence.
Fasting requires that only one full meal be taken per day. Two other, smaller meals may be taken during the day to maintain physical strength, but these two meals should not equal a full meal in quantity. Fasting is an obligation of every Catholic from age 18 until age 59.
Abstinence prohibits the eating of meat on a particular day. Abstinence is an obligation for all Catholics beginning at age 14 and continuing throughout life.
Those who are not specifically obliged to fast or to abstain are encouraged to join in those disciplines to the extent they are able.
The season of Lent culminates in the celebration of the Easter Triduum of the Lord’s Last Supper, Passion, Death and Resurrection.
Holy Thursday this year is April 17. Good Friday is April 18. The Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection is April 19. Easter Sunday is April 20.
Church regulations stipulate that the Easter Vigil should not begin before nightfall, that is, at least half an hour after sunset.