Preparing for Lent

Regulations for Lenten sacrifice

All Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat for Catholics over 14.

Ash Wednesday & Good Friday are days of fasting & abstinence for Catholics between the ages of 18-59. Fasting means taking only one full meal & two smaller meals that, taken together, do not equal one full meal.

Throughout Lent, Catholics are especially encouraged to perform voluntary acts of penance.

Burning palms for Ash Wednesday

In this 2015 video, members of the youth group and confirmation class at St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua burned palms in preparation for Ash Wednesday.

Questions about Lent

Are parishes allowed to perform baptisms during Lent?

No church law prohibits baptisms during Lent, and the matter is up to local discretion. A fair number of parishes choose not to do Lenten baptisms. Canon 856 of the Code of Canon Law says that baptisms should ordinarily be done on Sundays or, if possible, at the Easter Vigil.

This guideline is based on the intimate link between Christian baptism and the saving resurrection of Jesus. Some pastors make the judgment that once Lent has begun, it is reasonable to delay the baptism of a healthy infant until Easter to highlight that connection.

“Shortly” and “few” are seen by some pastors as an opportunity to wait until Easter, once Lent has begun. An infant in danger of death should, of course, be baptized immediately, as Canon No. 867 points out.

As for removing the holy water from fonts, I suppose that if baptisms are delayed until Easter, it makes some sense to empty the baptismal font to signify the “dryness” of the Lenten desert experience before the life-giving joy of Easter.

But I would argue against it if the baptismal font doubles as a holy water font where people sign themselves with water when they enter church.

(From Are baptisms allowed during Lent?” Catholic News Service’s column by Father Kenneth Doyle, March 9, 2012)

Do Sundays count as part as Lent? Can you have whatever you gave up - ice cream, candy, etc. - on Sundays?

“Do Sundays count as part of Lent?” The clear answer is “Yes.” In the liturgical books of the church, the season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday. In the Roman Missal, for example, March 10, 2019, was designated as the “First Sunday of Lent.”

Now, for the more complicated part: If you’re fasting on candy for Lent, may you eat it on Sundays? The answer is: It’s your own call. Each of us is required in a general way to do penance, but the particular manner is a personal choice. There’s no law involved or question of sinfulness — you’re just doing something nice for God, in return for the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

(From Do Sundays count as part of Lent?” Catholic News Service’s column by Father Kenneth Doyle, April 1, 2019)

To ash or not to ash?

In this video, University of Maryland chaplain discusses why Ash Wednesday is such a popular Mass on campus even though it’s not a holy day of obligation.