Piety, Fasting, Alms Giving
Lent this year begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14.
This year Ash Wednesday coincides with Valentine’s Day (February 14), a largely secular celebration, particularly in the United States. There have been inquiries if a dispensation from the obligations to fast and abstain from meat will be given. As Catholics, we recognize Ash Wednesday as the solemn beginning of a period of prayer, penance, and works of charity. Its spiritual importance is evidenced by the large number of faithful choosing to attend Mass on this day. In view of the significance of Ash Wednesday, the obligations of fast and abstinence are naturally the priority in the Catholic community. Valentine’s Day can appropriately be celebrated on another day, such as Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, which happens to be Mardi Gras, a time of celebration prior to the Lenten journey.
Prayer – Catholics are encouraged to pray more during Lent, especially with Scripture. Lent is also an ideal time to receive properly the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. The Stations of the Cross are commonly prayed during Lent. This 14-step devotion commemorates Jesus Christ’s last day on Earth as a man and focus on specific events of His last day.
Fasting & Abstinence -Catholics of age 14 and older abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent. In addition, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics from age 18-59 fast, limiting themselves to one full meal and two smaller meals each day. A reflection on Lenten Fasting.
Almsgiving – Moved by the sacrifice of Christ, many Christians combine almsgiving with fasting, giving to the poor the money they saved by eating, drinking or buying less as they rely more upon God’s abundant grace.