Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day season (not counting Sundays) marked by prayer, repentance, fasting, and charity. In 2020, Ash Wednesday falls on February 26. It ends with the celebration of the Paschal Mystery (Easter Triduum), on April 10-12.
The 40-day period represents Christ’s time of temptation in the wilderness, where he fasted and where Satan tempted him. As Catholics we are asked to unite ourselves with Christ and his suffering in an intentional way during Lent. The Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests various specific practices for the season: “spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).”
At Ash Wednesday Mass, the priest reminds us of our obligation as he marks our forehead with ashes in the form of a cross, saying ‘Repent, and believe in the Gospel,’ or ‘Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ To find an Ash Wednesday Mass near you, please contact your parish or visit our Ash Wednesday Mass Times page.
Roman Catholics must fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday (April 10, 2020). Additionally, they must abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent. We deprive ourselves of food in order to be more open to prayer, to share more in the suffering of those who are starving, and to save money to give to the poor. Fasting means a person is permitted to eat one full meal; two smaller meals may also be taken, but they are not to equal that of a full meal. According to Church law, this applies to those aged aged 18 to 59.
The rule of abstinence from meat is binding upon Catholics aged 14 and older.
Lent is a season of penance, so it’s an excellent time to go to confession. Most parishes have penitential celebrations during Lent, which include the opportunty for confession. For dates and times of penitential celebrations, contact your parish or visit caedm.ca/lent for a list of celebrations throughout the Archdiocese. Or you can seek the sacrament on the Day of Confessions (Tuesday, March 3), a day when all our priests devote themselves to hearing confessions.
Lent is also an ideal time to get away from the normal routines of life and attend a spiritual retreat. Half-day retreats or parish missions are common during Lent, and are ideal moments to unite oneself to Christ alone in the desert. Contact any parish for dates and times of Lenten missions. Make time for Scripture as well. As Pope Francis says in his Message for Lent 2020, “The more fully we are engaged with his word, the more we will experience the mercy he freely gives us. May we not let this time of grace pass in vain, in the foolish illusion that we can control the times and means of our conversion to him.”
Lent also calls us to give of our ourselves. For this reason, the archdiocesan annual appeal, Together We Serve, begins in Lent each year. Our financial gifts through Together We Serve help support 11 different Catholic charitable causes. Donations can be made at your parish or online http://bit.ly/WeServeGive. You might also consider giving works of service, by volunteering with a charity or helping out a neighbour in need.
We wish you a blessed Lenten season!