The season of Lent, the time when not just Catholics, but all Christians are asked to devote themselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to sacrifice self-control through fasting ahead of Easter. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 14 and ends on Holy Thursday, which is March 29, when there is a mass to represent Jesus' last supper. On Good Friday, (March 30) Jesus was crucified and on Easter Sunday (April 1) he rose from the dead. The ashes on Ash Wednesday represent two Biblical themes. The first comes from the saying "remember you are dust and to dust you shall return," a passage underscoring life is temporary and should be lived correctly, Fuller said. The ashes also pay homage to penance. When someone repented their sins, it used to be custom for them to dress in itchy sackcloth (like a potato bag, Fuller says) and sit in ashes. Lent represents the 40 days Jesus wandered the desert praying and fasting after he was baptized, said Fr. Michael Fuller, executive director of secretariat of doctrine and canonical affairs for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Fuller describes Lent as a "time of kind of rejuvenation and refocusing your life on your relationship with the Lord."
Despite Jesus' 40 days in the desert, Lent lasts 46 days. But Sundays during Lent are not "prescribed days" of fasting and abstinence. If you don't count the Sundays, you're left with 40 days of Lenten fasting. Fasting, abstinence and giving up attachments are forms of self-denial, which trains the soul to desire things less and desire God more, notes Fuller.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops said people ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. That means followers should have one meatless meal, plus two small meals on those days. No other food should be eaten between meals, but all liquids are on the table. The Conference of Catholic Bishops said people ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. That means followers should have one meatless meal, plus two small meals on those days. No other food should be eaten between meals, but all liquids are on the table. On Fridays during Lent, Catholics 14 and older are instructed not to eat meat, meaning anything from chicken, cows, sheep, pigs or birds is prohibited. Fish is allowed to be eaten.
Most Christians recall the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, but we are also called to practice self-discipline and fast in other ways throughout the season. In addition, the giving of alms is one way to share God's gifts—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2446). During Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics. Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent.