FAST AND ABSTINENCE

Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14) and Good Friday (March 30) are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence.

According to Church law, all Catholics age 18 until age 59 are obliged to fast. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding for Catholics ages 14 and up.

These are practices that are not to be excused lightly. They are expressions of our desire to be converted in our hearts, to be reconciled with each other and to love our neighbor. It is helpful to remember that the ability to decide how much or little one will eat is in itself a gift.

EASTER DUTY

All of the faithful, after they have received their First Communion, are obliged to receive the Eucharist at least once each year. This precept, which originally resulted from the widespread neglect of receiving the sacrament in the past, is to be fulfilled during the Easter season. The dioceses of the United States have an indult -- permission from the Vatican -- that allows the Easter duty to be satisfied from the First Sunday of Lent (Feb. 18) to Trinity Sunday (May 27). Although this is a minimum requirement, wherever possible, Catholics would ideally receive the Eucharist frequently throughout the year; if not every time they attend Mass.

Catholics are strongly encouraged to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation, especially  during the Lenten and/or Easter season. 

(See the diocesan website, www.rcda.org, for a detailed list of Lent, Holy Week and Easter guidelines.)