The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Lenten Guidelines: Fasting and abstinence observed throughout Lent

Published: February 17, 2007   

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

1. 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.

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

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

4. 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.

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

Lenten Q&A

Q. Is Ash Wednesday a holy day of obligation?

A. 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. The day is chosen based on the fact that it's 40 days before Good Friday.

It is, however, a day of fast and abstinence.

Q. Are Sundays part of Lent? If so, are Catholics required to continue acts of penance on the Sundays during Lent?

A. 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.

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