Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, so named because of the Church’s tradition of marking the foreheads of each member of the faith community with consecrated ashes on that day. Catholics receive ashes as a tangible reminder that Lent is a time for prayer, fasting and charitable works (almsgiving) in preparation for Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
According to Catholic tradition, Lent provides us with a yearly opportunity to renew and deepen our relationship with Christ. It is a time during which penitential practices and good works are stressed equally by the Church. Acts of sacrifice and self-denial alongside actions directed toward love of God and neighbor combine to powerfully fulfill our baptismal commitment to be like Christ.
Fasting and abstinence from eating meat
Ash Wednesday (Feb. 14) and Good Friday (March 30) are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.
If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the “paschal fast” to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily His Resurrection.
Fridays in Lent are obligatory days of complete abstinence (from meat) for all who have completed their 14th year.