We’re just a few short hours from the beginning of the Lenten Season, which runs from Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) until Holy Thursday. It is a season of prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial in preparation for the great celebration of Easter. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are fasting days, which restrict the eating of meat and snacking between meals. All Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence from eating meat but fish and shellfish are permitted.
Isn’t fish meat?
Yes. But it’s permitted because of the words used in Canon Law. The word “meat” in English is written in Canon Law using the Latin word carne which means meat from mammals or fowl. The observances for fasting have changed over time, but here are the current portions of Canon Law:
Can. 1249 All Christ’s faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.
Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.
Note Canon 1253, which mentions the substitution of other forms of penance or works of charity and piety… it has been encouraged by the Church to go beyond the letter of Canon Law and deepen your faith in a more significant way during Lent, and over the past few years I have been doing a little more.
What’s in store for this year?
Here’s what I have planned for this Lenten Season:
- Give up soda, including my beloved Diet Coke. Thankfully, my wife Tasha is doing the same thing so it will be easier but I am NOT looking forward to the withdrawal headaches that I always get.
- Read Summa Theologica by Saint Thomas Aquinas. I have only barely started and this is going to be a challenge. Saint Thomas was a very deep thinker and it’s going to be a battle for every one of those 550 pages.
- Follow the Discerning the Will of God Lenten Journey by Steve Bollman (from That Man Is You!) to the best of my ability. It involves the following each day: morning and evening prayer, an activity or observance, Scripture reading and a rosary.
- If I get through all that I will continue reading Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth series.
If you’re doing something special for Lent this year, let’s hear about it in the comments. I enjoy hearing what others find important to sacrifice or observe during this important season.