The season of Lent beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 1, is a penitential time of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and personal sacrifice meant to draw Christians more deeply into the sacred mysteries of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.
On Ash Wednesday, the distribution of ashes will take place at parishes throughout the archdiocese, preferably during Mass. The Church requires that ashes be distributed in a sacred place such as a church or chapel.
In a letter to pastors on Jan. 16, Msgr. Gregory Mustaciuolo, vicar general/chancellor of the archdiocese, wrote that Ash Wednesday “offers a valuable opportunity to set a tone for the entire season, as well as to reach out to people, some of whom are usually not often found in our churches.
“Aware of the considerable interest of the faithful in receiving ashes, every effort must be made through the reading of Scripture and the offering of prayers to catechize the faithful on the penitential character of Lent and the value of their Lenten practices.”
During the season of Lent, the Church urges the faithful to reflect a spirit of penance in their daily lives through performing acts of faith 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 together should not equal a full meal in quantity. Nor is there eating between meals. Fasting is an obligation of every Catholic from age 18 to age 59.
Abstinence prohibits individuals from eating 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 letter to pastors noted that parishes should set a good example for Lenten practice by refraining from socials. Extended hours for confession, as well as devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, are encouraged. Reconciliation Monday will be offered in parish churches throughout the archdiocese on April 10, with confessions available from 3 to 9 p.m.
The season of Lent culminates in the celebration of the Easter Triduum of the Lord’s Last Supper, Passion, Death and Resurrection. Holy Thursday is April 13. Good Friday is April 14. The Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection is April 15. Easter Sunday is April 16.
Church regulations stipulate the Easter Vigil should not begin before nightfall, at least half an hour after sunset.