FAST AND ABSTINENCE

Ash Wednesday (March 1) and Good Friday (April 14) 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.

ST. PATRICK'S DAY DISPENSATION

Bishop Edward Scharfenberger has announced the following: "All Catholics aged 14 and older are obliged to observe the traditional Friday abstinence from meat on all Fridays in Lent. This year, the feast of St. Patrick falls on one such Lenten Friday. Those who wish to observe the celebration of the feast of St. Patrick with meals including meat may do so this year. In the spirit of Lenten observance, I would invite those who choose to enjoy this dispensation to observe the abstinence on the day before or after Fri., March 17." 

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 the sacrament during the Middle Ages, 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 (March 5) to Trinity Sunday (June 11). Although this is a minimum requirement, Catholics would ideally receive the Eucharist frequently throughout the year, if not every time they attend Mass.

Traditionally, Catholics also celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation during the Lenten and/or Easter season.

(See the diocesan website, www.rcda.org, for a detailed list of Lenten guidelines.)