The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Questions and answers about Lent practices

Find out about Lenten traditions in the Catholic Church, how it started

Published: February 9, 2016   

Q. What is the significance of the color purple during Lent?

A. The color purple is an additional symbol of penance. The Scriptures tell us that a purple garment was placed on Jesus during his passion as a mockery. It is fitting that the color be maintained during the days in which we focus on our own reality of sin that continues to be a mockery of the love and goodness of God.

The color purple and the days of penance themselves will eventually give way to the color white and celebration of Christ’s victory over sin. In humility we acknowledge our sin in penance so that we may share fully in the celebration to come.


Q. What determines the date of Easter or when Lent begins?

A. The Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) set the date of Easter as the Sunday following the 14th day of the paschal full moon, which is the full moon whose 14th day falls on or after the vernal (spring) equinox.

The reason was because that was the date of Passover in the Jewish calendar, and the Last Supper (Holy Thursday) occurred on the Passover. Therefore, Easter was the Sunday after Passover.


Q. What are the rules about fasting and abstinence?

A. 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.

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.


Father Erik Pohlmeier is the theological consultant for Arkansas Catholic and pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church in Little Rock.

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