The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Questions about Lent

Published: February 2, 2008   

Lent begins Feb. 6 on Ash Wednesday. In preparation for Easter, it is a season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Following is information commonly requested about Lent. The Feb. 9 issue of Arkansas Catholic will feature a comprehensive special section on Lenten observances.

Fasting, abstinence observed during Lent

As the season of Lent begins, it is helpful to recall the discipline of the Church with regards to fast, abstinence and other forms of penance.

  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. The law of fasting allows one full meal and two smaller ones. The law of abstinence prohibits the eating of meat.

  • The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence in the United States.

  • The obligation of abstinence begins at age 14. The law of fasting obliges all between the ages of 18-59.

  • Pastors and parents are to see to it that minors, though not bound by the law of fast and abstinence, are educated in the authentic sense of penance and encouraged to do acts of penance suitable to their age.

  • All members of the Christian faithful are encouraged to do acts of penance and charity beyond what is prescribed by the law.

    Important Lenten questions answered

    Q. Is Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation?
    Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation. The days of obligation all celebrate an event in the life of Jesus or Mary or a person (or persons as in the case of All Saints Day). Ash Wednesday does not but it marks the beginning of a season.

    Q. Why is Lent starting so early this year?
    In Western Christianity the first day of Lent is 46 days before Easter. Easter, which is calculated by lunar cycles, always falls between March 22 and April 25. This year Easter is set for March 23. According to Catholic News Service, this is the earliest Easter since 1913, when it fell on the same date. "In 1913, however, Ash Wednesday came on Feb. 5, a day earlier than this year. Because 2008 is a leap year, it added an extra day in the middle of the Lenten season. The earliest Ash Wednesday possible is Feb. 4, and the earliest Easter is March 22. That last happened in 1818," CNS reported.

    Q. Are Sundays part of Lent? If so, are Catholics required to continue acts of penance on the Sundays during Lent?
    Sundays most definitely are a part of Lent as they are listed the first through fifth Sundays of Lent, and not of something else. The Sundays do, however, take on a different character than other days because Sunday is always a celebration of the Resurrection. There is no rule on whether Lenten practices continue on Sundays since such practices are voluntary anyway. Without a doubt we should maintain our preparation for the Triduum on Sundays, whether or not that includes acts of penance.

    Q. How is St. Patrick's Day to be celebrated this year because it falls during Holy Week?
    According to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter, since St. Patrick's Day falls on the Monday of Holy Week, (March 17), most of the dioceses of the United States will not commemorate the feast liturgically. If St. Patrick is the patron of a church the feast is customarily commemorated as a solemnity. The solemnity this year may be transferred to Friday, March 14. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments transferred the Solemnity of St. Joseph from Wednesday of Holy Week to March 15, the Saturday before Palm Sunday. "This decision impedes the transfer of the solemnity of St. Patrick to March 15," the USSB newsletter stated.

  • Click here to return to the 2008 Lenten section index.

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