Lent is a time we are called to conversion of our hearts through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Lent means "spring" or "new birth." It is a time to be reconciled, a time to fit ourselves back into God's rhythm.
The U.S. Catholic bishops call for all Catholics 14 years and older to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and the Fridays of Lent. Catholics who are 18 to 59 years old are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting refers to the quantity of food eaten. Traditionally, fasting calls for refraining from eating between meals and consuming only one full meal per day.
By fasting we signify our oneness with the Lord, acknowledge our need for conversion, and give witness to our solidarity with those less fortunate. Traditionally, the canonical obligation of fasting has been understood in the church as the taking of only one full meal a day. (Canons 1252 and 1253)
Other forms of penance that we are encouraged to observe during Lent include:
• Prayer: In prayer, we encounter and walk with God. Opportunities for prayer can include attending Mass, praying the liturgy of the hours, praying within the family, visiting a chapel, prayerfully reading the Bible, praying the rosary or praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
• Almsgiving: This penitential practice entails giving money or other resources for the benefit of those in need. One possible source of this money is that which has been saved from fasting or other means of self-denial. In our diocese, we are encouraged to give alms to the Ashes to Easter project, which benefits missionaries from our diocese.
Triduum (the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Easter) is a single liturgical prayer, but one that is prayed over these three days. This is the Paschal mystery, the living story of redemption, the most solemn and powerful moment of the church year.
Easter is not a single day, but a holy season, 50 days. The Paschal candle remains in a prominent place and is lighted at all liturgies -- Jesus, the light of the world is risen! Each Sunday we are sprinkled and renew our baptismal promises.