What is Lent?
Lent is the 40-day season of preparation for Easter that ends on Holy Thursday, three days before Easter Sunday. During Lent, Catholics recall their baptism and do penance – fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as they commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned – ashes from these palms are distributed on Ash Wednesday as a sign of penitence.
Why do Catholics traditionally give something up during Lent?
To do penance in preparation for the greatest feast in the Christian calendar.
What is fasting and abstinence?
The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Abstinence from eating meat or some other food according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops is to be observed on every Friday of the year unless a Friday occurs on a day listed as a solemnity. The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat.
Abstinence and fasting, however, are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting in the Latin Church is the limitation of food and drink – typically to one main meal and two smaller meals, with no solid foods in between.
The law of abstinence binds those who are fourteen years of age and older. The law of fasting, however, binds all those who are eighteen to fifty-nine years of age (so until the beginning of their sixtieth year). Nevertheless, pastors of souls and parents are to take care that minors not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are also educated in a genuine sense of penance.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the days of fast and abstinence in Canada are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays are days of abstinence but Catholics may substitute special acts of charity or piety on this day.
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