One of the most sacred times of the year for Catholics is the season of Lent. The 2017 Lenten Season begins on Wednesday, March 1 – Ash Wednesday – and runs through Saturday April 15, serving as a time where many Christians will prepare for Easter by following obligatory rules for fasting, spiritual recognition and repentance. This is a time to reflect on the sacrifices Jesus Christ made while honoring his life, passing, burial and resurrection. According to the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, the fasting period begins on Ash Wednesday but the rules of following the religious law can sometimes become misconstrued.
Practicing Catholics age 14 and older should follow the guidelines calling for the refusal of meat eating on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and each Friday during the season of Lent. Those who may be ill or pregnant are excused from the fasting process in many cases. In addition, Roman Catholics in the United States between the ages of 18 and 59 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Lent is also a time to show love and caring for others. Consistently attending mass and praying the rosary are also other ways people can show their dedication and belief during a truly sacred time.
Code of Canon Guidelines – Days of Penance
The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
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.
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.
The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.