Lent: 44 days of penance

2001 Lenten regulations:

ABSTINENCE: Catholics over 14 years of age are bound to the obligations of abstinence. Abstinence is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. On days of abstinence, meat may not be used at all.

FAST: Catholics over 18 and up to the beginning of their 60th year are bound to the obligation of fasting. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the days of fasting. On these days, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices are allowed.

In recent years there have been many changes in the regulations regarding fasting and abstinence. There has been no change, however, in the need for works of penance in the life of each of us. Repentance, a “change of heart” self-denial, satisfaction for sin, these are a part of the message of Christ: “Repent, and believe the Good News.” (Mark 1:15) If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

Lent is a period of special penitential observance. Following the instructions of the Holy See, the bishops of the United States have declared that the obligation to fast and to abstain from meat still binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As the bishops state, “no Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation” on these days. In addition, the tradition of abstinence from meat on other Fridays of Lent is preserved. Again, the bishops express their confidence that “No Catholic Christians will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.”

Regarding all other weekdays of Lent, we strongly recommend participation in daily Mass and the voluntary observance of fasting. Commendable, particularly during Lent, is generosity to local, national and world programs of sharing our abundance, the traditional Lenten devotions, and all the self-denial summed up in the Christian concept of “mortification.”