Lent

Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.

Joel 2:12

Now: it’s an urgent word, a word that doesn’t allow for delay. It’s a word that promises immediate fulfillment. You can feel it when the prophet Joel called God’s people to return. You can see it in St. Paul’s ardent plea: “Now is a very acceptable time” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Both Paul and Joel are saying the same thing: God is always eager to pour out His grace. He’s always ready to bless us. This is the first thing we need to know as we begin these forty days of Lent.

But if God is always eager, why do we need a season like Lent? Because while it’s always now to God, it isn’t always so for us. We need the structure of seasons like Lent to get our attention, to repent, to reflect, and to be restored. We need the reminder to simplify our schedules and look to God more intensely. We need the call to increased prayer or fasting to shake up our routines and make us more eager for Him.

So set these forty days aside as a retreat. If you’ve struggled with prayer in the past, don’t worry; today—now—can be a fresh start. Give God ten minutes each day, maybe do this at the new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel? It is open Monday through Friday after the 8am Mass until 10pm. If you can’t do ten minutes, what about eight? Whatever amount of time, it can be your chance to retreat from pressing concerns and make yourself available to God. Open your heart to Him as you read each day’s Scripture passage and meditation. Try to sense what God might be saying to you.

For each bit of time you give to God, you will discover that you are able to trust Him a little more. For each bit of time you spend praying with His word, you’ll notice your heart feeling a little lighter. You’ll find yourself smiling more, no matter what life throws at you.

There are also countless opportunities at OLM to open our hearts to His grace and mercy—through repentance, generosity, worship, forgiveness, and acts of service; see what those are below. May we suggest our Lenten offering, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘙𝘦𝘴𝘤𝘶𝘦 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵 on Thursday evenings during Lent; 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝘀 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗵 𝗮 𝗽𝗼𝘄𝗲𝗿𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗵𝗲𝗮𝗿𝘁𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗼𝗳𝘁𝗲𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗟𝗼𝗿𝗱, 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗮𝘂𝘀𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁’𝘀 𝘄𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗻𝗴𝗲𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗲𝗻. 𝗜𝘁 𝘄𝗼𝘂𝗹𝗱 𝗯𝗲 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝗷𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗻𝗲𝘆 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗲𝗮𝗰𝗵 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿, 𝘁𝗼𝗴𝗲𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗮𝘀 𝗮 𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗵, 𝘄𝗲 𝗵𝗼𝗽𝗲 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗲𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲; 𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻 𝘂𝗽 𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗮𝘁 www.olmercy.com/therescueproject
Don’t doubt that God is pouring out His grace this Lent. Receive it. Every day. Now is your time!

“Lord, thank you for giving me the season of Lent. Renew my enthusiasm and anticipation as I turn to you each day. Draw me closer!”

Here is a list of the type of resources found on this page, that can help you enter into this solemn, holy season of Lent more deeply this year. 

  • LENTEN FLYER
  • LENTEN GUIDELINES
  • LENTEN HOMILIES
  • LENT SCHEDULE
  • LENTEN LITERARY, VISUAL, OR AUDIO RESOURCES
  • HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE (Coming next week)
  • PRAYER
  • FASTING
  • ALMSGIVING
  • LENT FAQs (Such as Are Sundays excluded from Lent? Does Lent end on Palm Sunday or Holy Thursday?)

Lenten Flyer

Pick one up on the wooden kiosk flyer display (by the new Adoration Chapel) or print the .pdf version; just click on the graphic.


Lenten Guidelines

  • Everyone 14 years of age or over is bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.
  • All from the age of 18 years up to the beginning of their 60th year are bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • On these two days of fast and abstinence, only one full meatless meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted on these two days, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices are allowed. When health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige.
  • To disregard completely the law of fast and abstinence is sinful.
  • Lent is the principal season of penance in the Church year. Therefore, all of the faithful are strongly urged to develop and follow a program of voluntary self-denial. All Catholics are encouraged to support generously the charitable works of the whole Church, pray and perform works of charity and mercy.
  • Those who are sick, pregnant, or nursing, or whose health would adversely be affected by fasting or abstinence, should not consider themselves bound by these norms.

Lenten Homilies

LENT IS NOT A REBOOT

As we begin this new holy season of Lent, Fr. Frank proposes that we should not see it as a ‘reboot’ instead we see this Lenten season as a new chapter; a continuation of our story. And with God’s help we can use this Lent to write the most interesting chapter of our story so far.

IS YOUR ‘NO’ COVERING A BIGGER REASON TO SAY ‘YES’

This Lent Our Lady of Mercy is offering The Rescue Project experience and Michelle Kibler shares an invitation to this life-changing experience and the people’s reaction in her group. If you’re uncertain and your initial reaction is a no, that’s okay because perhaps that “‘no’ is covering a bigger reason to say ‘yes’?” We look forward to seeing you Thursdays at 6:30pm at Our Lady of Mercy. For more details and registration proceed to this link. Delicious Dinner~Compelling Talk~Safe Group Discussions

A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM FR. JOHN RICCARDO

Check out this must-watch message to Our Lady of Mercy parishioners from Fr. Riccardo! Dive into The Rescue Project with us this Lent, let’s make this journey together! 🙏 #JoinTheRescueProject@OLM #FrRiccardo&OLM.
Let’s take up Fr. John on his invitation to the Lenten journey at The Rescue Project with him! Register here

 


Lenten Schedule

 

 


Holy Week Schedule

COMING SOON (NEXT WEEK)


10 Things You Might Know About Lent


Lenten Literary, Visual, or Audio Resources

Bishop Barron’s Lenten Gospel Reflection

Spend your time with Christ in the Gospel this Lent alongside Bishop Barron and the Word on Fire community.

Sign-up here to receive these daily Gospel reflections in your inbox every morning.

Dr. Tim Gray’s Daily Lenten Reflections

Journey with Dr. Tim Gray by signing up for Daily Lenten Reflections. Each day you will receive in your inbox a short video featuring Dr. Gray commenting on the daily Mass readings, explaining the Scriptures, and providing you with concrete ideas on how to apply them to your Christian life.

Sign-up here to receive these daily Gospel reflections in your inbox every morning.

Hallow App Pray 40 Lenten Challenge

For those who don’t know, Hallow is the #1 Catholic prayer app in the world and offers over 5,000 audio-guided prayers on their mobile app. We have been chosen, as part of one of only a handful of parishes to pilot Hallow’s Lenten Challenge from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday.

Sign up and receive free and full access to the app and consider taking participating in the Hallow’s Lenten Challenge through the app at their own pace (without the requirement of meeting in person or virtual meetings).

 

FORMED It’s a Catholic version of Netflix

Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church Has Purchased a Gift For You!  It’s easy and FREE. Click on the following to sign up for FORMED.

What is FORMED?  Check out the quick soundbite below.

Let St. Thomas Aquinas be your guide

The Church has consistently singled out St. Thomas as the most reliable guide to both knowing and living out our Catholic faith.

The Angelic Doctor’s profound reflections on Christ’s Passion are among the most beautiful ever written. With this FREE eBook, “Meditations for Each Day of Lent,” you’re in good hands as you begin your own spiritual journey to the foot of the Cross.

These short daily meditations will help you better understand:

  • These short daily meditations will help you better understand:
  • How penance transforms your relationship with Christ.
  • What to do when you feel tempted to sin.
  • Lessons of Christ’s Passion you can immediately apply to your own life.
  • How Our Lady shared in the sufferings of her Son. And more!

Journey through Lent with our myParish App

To help celebrate this holy season, we have made available temporary Lent and Easter app backgrounds along with weekly Lenten video reflections from RETURN by Fr. John Burns and daily Lenten reflections from Messages of Trust by Michael White and Tom Corcoran. These resources will aid us in our journey through Lent to Easter Sunday.  Text “APP” to 88202 to download.

Magnificat or MagnifiKid

Paid subscription.  Magnificat (and its counterpart MagnifiKid for children between the ages of 6 and 12) is a spiritual guide to help you develop your prayer life, grow in your spiritual life, find a way to a more profound love for Christ, and participate in the holy Mass with greater fervor.

Magnificat is a monthly publication designed for daily use, to encourage both liturgical and personal prayer. It can be used to follow daily Mass and can also be read at home or wherever you find yourself for personal or family prayer.

Every day, in a convenient, pocket-sized format, Magnificat offers beautiful prayers for both morning and evening drawn from the treasures of the Liturgy of the Hours, the official texts of daily Mass, meditations written by spiritual giants of the Church and more contemporary authors, essays on the lives of the saints of today and yesterday, and articles giving valuable spiritual insight into masterpieces of sacred art.  Click here to get a paper or online subscription.

The Word Among Us

Paid subscription.  The Word Among Us includes daily meditations based on the Mass readings of the Catholic Church, inspirational essays, testimonies, and stories of the saints and other Christian heroes!

It is available in print (with or without the daily Mass Readings). They also offer digital editions for Apple iOSAndroid and Amazon Kindle. Print subscribers also receive their Web Edition—absolutely free! Choose which edition is best for you and join over 550,000 readers world-wide.


Fasting

“We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest. ” —Thomas Merton

Voluntary self-denial (asceticism) detaches us from sin and the things and desires that move us away from what is pure and good for us.   Intentional self-denial strengthens our will to love the things of God.  It is the athletic training of the spiritual life.  Let us become a spiritual athlete this Lent.

Practice of Virtues

A part of self-denial can be the practice of virtues, such as moderation or orderliness. We invite you to look at the virtues and determine how you might better practice them in your day-to-day life this Lent. Click on the graphic below or here

Why Fast by Fr. Mike Schmitz?

Fasting shouldn’t be simply something Catholics do to show they are Catholic. It is a way to show God that we give him our hearts and care about what He asks of us.

Chris Stefanick’s RISE 30 Day Challenge for Men

Begins 3/1st.  RISE is an investment toward building a better life for you and those you love.  The RISE 30-Day Challenge has transformed thousands of lives with a practical plan to help you live out your faith where it matters most…in everyday life.  It’s 30 Days of Powerful Videos & Challenges,  a world-wide community of brothers, and LIFETIME Access. You won’t regret it. Take the challenge and be ready to receive what God wants to do in your life.  (Note this is the only one that has a fee).

Sign-up here to join the brotherhood.

Exodus 90 LENT: a 40 Day Spiritual Exercise

How have you prepared for Easter in the past? Like most of us, maybe you’ve given up chocolate or tried to pray more. But during Lent, our Lord invites us to go deeper by increasing our fervor for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. “Lent” is a spiritual exercise for men that will immerse you in the Christian life and lead you through one of the most fruitful Lenten seasons you have ever experienced. Throughout these 40 days, allow the daily scriptures and reflections to be your guide as you begin your disciplined life of prayer, asceticism, and fraternity.

Click here for further details.


Praying

The gaze of contemplative prayer transforms us by the loving knowledge of Christ that it brings. It is a form of wordless prayer and attentiveness to God, in which we just enjoy being with Him.

Prayer doesn’t change God’s mind.  It doesn’t change God’s heart. It changes ours. Prayer is the antidote to what’s broken in us. It is the antidote for the hardening of our hearts and if we’re not sure what to do next, start with prayer. It’s never the wrong choice. So let us take the time this season to increase or start spending more time in silence with Jesus who always leads us to the Heavenly Father by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lent is a wonderful opportunity to evaluate our prayer life. Christian prayer is a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ. It is the action of God and man springing forth from both the Holy Spirit and ourselves, wholly directed to the Father, in union with the human will of the Son of God made man (CCC 2564).

Attend a Lenten Magnify Meditating on Christ’s Paschal Mystery 

Go to Confession

Meditating on the scriptures is a wonderful way to enter more deeply into the life of Christ and the Pascal Mystery. Two traditional ways to meditate on Christ’s Paschal Mystery are:

Fridays Stations of the Cross @ OLM

Join us on Fridays during Lent at 7pm in English for Friday’s Stations of the Cross @ OLM.

 

 

Lectio Prayer on FORMED

If your prayer life has been dry, if you’re striving for a deeper intimacy with God, or if you’re just beginning to learn how to pray, Lectio Prayer is a must-see series on FORMED. In six video sessions, Lectio: Prayer captures the secret to opening our hearts and minds to Scripture as the means to hear from God and then respond in conversation, basking in His presence and resolving to live in and through His love.

 

Incorporate the “Examen” Prayer into your Prayer Life

The “Examen” prayer is all about living relationship with God and others: How much of myself have I revealed to God? How willingly have I done it? What kind of resistance do I experience? Examen can reveal yourself and the image of God you are holding.

Examen Prayer

Amen Free Catholic Prayer App

Equip yourself with the Amen Catholic prayer app this Lent.

Join other Amen listeners this Lent as we follow two great modern saints as our trusted guides. Find the complete audio version of St. John Henry Newman’s The Tears of Christ, with daily readings that will carry you from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. Also find a newly produced version of Pope St. John Paul II’s Stations of the Cross, which he first led on Good Friday in 1991.

Don’t forget to explore our Prayers and Meditations for other recent additions to nourish your faith, including Prayer Before a CrucifixThe Prayer of St. BonaventureForsaken, and Simon of Cyrene.

Finally, discover exclusive Lenten content from our newest partners and popular Catholic children’s podcasters: Catholic Sprouts and Shining Light Dolls.


Almsgiving

Acts of sacrifice are done to cling to God in communion of holiness. By these, we give our life to God. 

While Almsgiving traditionally encourages giving monetarily to the poor and needy, it can also include sacrifices of time or talent. Below are some creative ideas of how to practice almsgiving this penitential season:

  • Commit to tithing 10% of your income to charity this Lent
  • Give your time to the Lord by spending 10-15 minutes (or more) every day in prayer, spiritual reading, and /or starting a prayer journal
  • Limit your time on media and use that time for others (helping around the house, family time, etc.)
  • Volunteer for a charitable organization (soup kitchen, homeless shelter, parish, etc.)

If you are inspired to support Our Lady of Mercy as part of your Lenten almsgiving, consider donating to the CMAA. We thank you for considering us.

CMAA Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal 2024

The Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal (CMAA) supports numerous ministries that bring comfort doing it all for the Glory of God. The CMAA is vital to the diocese, providing the critical resources needed to support the ministries that care for so many of our friends and neighbors, and especially those in need in the community.

Because of your generosity to the CMAA, you truly live out the Gospel. Thank you for sharing your blessings!

Our parish’s goal for the 2023 CMAA is $140,500, with 70 percent of any amount we raise over this goal returned to us for our use.

If you wish to donate now, please click here giving to the CMAA. Thank you for being devoted to the works of the Lord by sharing your blessings!

Proceed to the following link to see how your gifts to the CMAA helps.

CRS Rice Bowls

CRS Rice Bowl provides an opportunity for your family to practice Lent together every day. When you join our community, you will receive daily reflections, prayers, and activities, as well as an actual Rice Bowl for almsgiving! Join today and your family can experience this amazing Lenten journey together.

 

A PRAYER FOR LENT

Almighty God, through Your strength, renew our spirit

Keep us disciplined

Let us recognize our sin but focus on You

Let us grow in holiness and fill our hearts with gratitude in our prayers

May we know You are present in our confessions

May we find healing and forgiveness in our fasting

May we be filled by Your Word in our service

May Your perfect Love be seen

As we prepare our hearts to celebrate the resurrection, let us meditate on the gift of the Cross
so we can proclaim through our prayers and our praise, Jesus Christ’s triumph over sin and death.  Amen.


Lent FAQs

What is Mardi Gras?

Mardi Gras takes place each February or March on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent begins. Lent, the forty day period of preparation for Easter, was for many years a time of strict fasting for Christians. On the day before the fast began, however, people held magnificent balls, parties and parades. It was a time for loud and lively celebrations before the serious solemn Lenten period. Today’s Mardi Gras celebrations, like those long ago are filled with excitement. Read the rest of this posting about Mardi Gras here.

What is Lent?

According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar (27), “Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through the several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices.”

Is Lent actually forty days long?

Technically, no. According to the General Norms, “Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, exclusive” (28). This means Lent ends at the beginning of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday. Count it as you will—that’s more than forty days. Therefore, the number forty in traditional hymns such as “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days” is only an approximation.

Are Sundays excluded from Lent?

No. The definition of what days are included in Lent is given above, in General Norms 28. No exception is made for Sundays. Indeed, the General Norms go on to specifically name the Sundays of the period as belonging to the season: “The Sundays of this season are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. The Sixth Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week, is called Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday)” (30).

Some people customarily allow themselves on Sunday to have things they have voluntarily given up for Lent, but since these forms of self-denial were voluntarily assumed anyway, a person is not under an obligation to practice them on Sunday (or any other specific day of the week).

Why is the season called Lent?

Lent is the Old English word for spring. In almost all other languages, Lent’s name is a derivative of the Latin term quadragesima or “the forty days.”

Why is Lent approximately forty days long?

In the Bible, forty days is a traditional number of discipline, devotion, and preparation. Moses stayed on the mountain of God forty days (Exodus 24:18, 34:28). The Israelites’ spies were in the land of Canaan forty days (Numbers 13:25). Elijah traveled forty days before he reached the cave where he had his vision (1 Kings 19:8). Nineveh was given forty days to repent (John 3:4). And, most significantly for our Lenten observance, Jesus spent forty days in wilderness praying and fasting prior to undertaking his ministry (Matthew 4:2). Thus, it is fitting for Christians to imitate him with a forty-day period of prayer and fasting to prepare to celebrate the climax of Christ’s ministry, Good Friday (the day of the crucifixion) and Easter Sunday (the day of the Resurrection).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “‘For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning’ [Hebrews 4:15]. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC 540).

What are fast and abstinence?

Under current canon law in the Western rite of the Church, a day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to sixty years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country you may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal. Children are not required to fast, but their parents must ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting.

A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years and older are required to abstain from eating meat. (Though under the current discipline of the Western rite of the Church, fish, eggs, milk products, and foods made using animal fat are permitted, they are not in the Eastern rites.) Their pastor can easily dispense those with medical conditions from the requirements of fast and abstinence.

Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance?

Yes. The book of Daniel states, “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . ‘I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over’” (Daniel 10:1-3).

Isn’t abstaining from meat one of the “doctrines of demons” Paul warned about in 1 Timothy 4:1-5?

When Paul warned of those who “forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods,” he had in mind people with the Manichean belief that sex is wrong and certain foods like meat are immoral. (Thus, the spiritual ideal for many modern New Agers is a celibate vegetarian, as in the Eastern religions.)

We know that Paul has in mind those who teach sex and certain foods are intrinsically immoral because he tells us that these are “foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:3b-5).

Sex and all kinds of food are good things—which is why the Catholic Church has marriage for a sacrament and heartily recommends the practice of eating to its members. This is why it is fitting for these things to be given up as part of a spiritual discipline. Thus, Daniel gave up meat (as well as wine, another symbol of rejoicing), and Paul endorses the practice of temporary celibacy to engage in a special spiritual discipline of increased prayer (1 Corinthians 7:5). By denying ourselves these good things, we encourage an attitude of humility, free ourselves from dependence on them, cultivate the spiritual discipline of sacrifice, and remind ourselves of the importance of spiritual goods over earthly goods.

In fact, if there was an important enough purpose, Paul recommended permanently giving up marriage and meat. Thus, he himself was celibate (1 Corinthians 7:8). He recommended the same for ministers (2 Timothy 2:3-4) and for the unmarried in order to devote themselves more fully to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-34), unless doing so would subject them to great temptations (1 Corinthians 7:9). Similarly, he recommended giving up meat permanently if it would prevent others from sinning (1 Corinthians 8:13).

Since the Catholic Church requires abstinence from meat only on a temporary basis, it clearly does not regard meat is immoral. Instead, it regards it as the giving up of a good thing in order to attain a spiritual goal.

What authority does the Church have to establish days of fast and abstinence?

The authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus told the leaders of his Church, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19, 18:18). The language of binding and loosing was (in part) a rabbinic way of referring to the ability to establish binding halakah or rules of conduct for the faith community. (See the Jewish Encyclopedia: “Binding and loosing (Hebrew, asar ve-hittir) . . . Rabbinical term for ‘forbidding and permitting.’”) It is especially appropriate that the references to binding and loosing occur in Matthew, the “Jewish Gospel.”

The Jewish Encyclopedia continues:

The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2), “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.” . . . The various schools had the power “to bind and to loose”; that is, to forbid and to permit (Talmud: Chagigah 3b); and they could also bind any day by declaring it a fast day (Talmud: Ta’anit 12a). . . . This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age of the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, 9; Talmud: Makkot 23b).

In this sense Jesus, when appointing his disciples to be his successors, used the familiar formula (Matthew 16:19, 8:18). By these words he virtually invested them with the same authority as that which he found belonging to the scribes and Pharisees who “bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers”; that is “loose them,” as they have the power to do (Matthew 23:2-4). In the same sense, [in] the second epistle of Clement to James II (Clementine Homilies, Introduction [A.D. 221]) Peter is represented as having appointed Clement as his successor, saying: “I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing so that, with respect to everything which he shall ordain in the earth, it shall be decreed in the heavens; for he shall bind what ought to be bound and loose what ought to be loosed as knowing the rule of the Church” (3:215).

Thus Jesus invested the leaders of this Church with the power of making halakah for the Christian community. This includes the setting of fast days (like Ash Wednesday).

To approach the issue from another angle, every family has the authority to establish particular family devotions for its members. If the parents decide that the family will engage in a particular devotion at a particular time (say, Bible reading after supper), it is a sin for the children to disobey and skip the devotion for no good reason. In the same way, the Church as the family of God, has the authority to establish its own family devotion, and it is a sin for the members of the Church to disobey and skip the devotions for no good reason. Of course, if the person has a good reason, the Church dispenses him.

In addition to Ash Wednesday, are any other days during Lent days of fast or abstinence?

Yes. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. Also, Good Friday, the day on which Christ was crucified, is day of both fast and abstinence.

All days in Lent are appropriate for fasting or abstaining, but canon law does not require it. Such fasting or abstinence is voluntary.

Why are Fridays during Lent days of abstinence?

Because Jesus died for our sins on Friday, making it an especially appropriate day of mourning our sins by denying ourselves something we enjoy. (By the same token, Sunday—the day on which he rose for our salvation—is an especially appropriate day to rejoice.)

Are acts of repentance appropriate on other days during Lent?

Yes. The Code of Canon Law states, “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and time throughout the universal Church” (CIC 1250).

Why are acts of repentance appropriate at this time of year?

Because it is the time leading up to the commemoration of our Lord’s death for our sins and the commemoration of his resurrection for our salvation. It is thus especially appropriate to mourn the sins for which he died. Humans have an innate psychological need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies of the greatest sort.

What are appropriate activities for ordinary days during Lent?

Giving up something we enjoy, engaging in physical or spiritual acts of mercy for others, prayer, fasting, abstinence, going to confession, and other acts expressing repentance in general.

Is the custom of giving up something for Lent mandatory?

No. However, it is a salutary custom, and parents or guardians may choose to require it, since the spiritual training of their children is their prime responsibility.

Why is giving up something for Lent such a salutary custom?

By denying ourselves something we enjoy, we discipline our wills so that we are not slaves to our pleasures. Just as over-indulging in the pleasure of eating leads to physical flabbiness, over-indulging in pleasure in general leads to spiritual flabbiness. When the demands of morality require us to refuse something pleasurable (such as sex outside marriage) or endure hardship (such as being scorned for the faith), spiritual flabbiness may well make us fail.

Is the denying of pleasure an end in itself?

No, it is only a means to an end. By training ourselves to resist temptations when they are not sinful, we train ourselves to reject temptations when they are sinful. We also express our sorrow over having failed to resist sinful temptations in the past. There are few better ways to keep our priorities straight than by denying ourselves things of lesser priority to show us that they are not necessary and focus our attention on what is necessary.

Can we deny ourselves too many pleasures?

Definitely. God made human life contingent on certain goods, such as food, and to refuse to enjoy enough of them has harmful consequences. For example, if we do not eat enough food, we can damage our bodies (and, in the extreme, even die). Just as there is a balance between eating too much food and not eating enough food, there is a balance involved in other goods.

If we deny ourselves too much, it may deprive us of goods God gave us in order that we might praise him or decrease our effectiveness in ministering to others. It can also constitute the sin of ingratitude by refusing to enjoy the things God wanted us to have because he loves us. If a child refused every gift his parent gave him, it would displease the parent; if we refuse gifts God has given us, it displeases God because he loves us and wants us to have them.

Aside from Ash Wednesday, what are the principal events of Lent?

There are a variety of saints’ days that fall during Lent, and some of these change from year to year, since the dates of Lent itself change based on when Easter falls. However, the Sundays during the Lenten season commemorate special events in the life of our Lord, such as the Transfiguration and his triumphal entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week. Holy Week climaxes with Holy Thursday, on which Christ celebrated the first Mass; Good Friday, on which he was crucified; and Holy Saturday—the last day of Lent—during which our Lord lay in the tomb before his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Here is a short summary on our Lenten Ritual and Practices