Questions and Answers about Lent and Lenten Practices

Q. Why do we say that there are forty days of Lent? When you count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, there are 46.

A. It might be more accurate to say that there is the “forty day fast within Lent.” Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days. The forty day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the Time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.

Q. So does that mean that when we give something up for Lent, such as candy, we can have it on Sundays?

A. Apart from the prescribed days of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of abstinence every Friday of Lent, Catholics have traditionally chosen additional penitential practices for the whole Time of Lent. These practices are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.

Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

A. Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

Q. I’ve noticed that restaurants and grocery stores advertise specials on expensive types of fish and seafood on Fridays during Lent. Some of my Catholic friends take advantage of these deals, but somehow I don’t feel right treating myself to the lobster special on Fridays during Lent.Read More »


Lent is the season to give

Let’s select and donate!

Who is Missio?

The Pontifical Mission Societies provide for a global network of people who are making the difference for the poor and forgotten. Young Pauline Jaricot learned about the Missions of her day from letters from missionaries. She decided to do something to help their work, right from her home in Lyons, France. Pauline gathered her friends and workers in the local silk factory into small groups. Everyone in the group pledged to pray for the Missions daily and to offer the equivalent of a penny each week. Each group member then found ten other friends to do the same. Within a year, she had 500 workers praying daily and offering help each week.

Pauline’s efforts became The Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The first collections supported the missions of China and the United States. By 1922, The Society for the Propagation of the Faith – and three other societies established to help the Missions – became Pontifical, or the Popes official ways to help the Missions, moving their headquarters to Rome.

In the first 100 years of its existence, The Society for the Propagation of the Faith sent $7 million to help what was then the young church in the United States. Catholics here started contributing in 1833, with a gift of $6. Today, U.S. Catholics provide 25 percent of the support sent to mission territories that cover more than half the globe, with a majority of that help provided to Africa and Asia.

With MISSIO, today’s technology meets the Church’s age-old mission of helping others, delivering direct and immediate access to those making a difference in the world’s most vulnerable communities. MISSIO places Pauline Jaricot’s inspired crowdfunding idea into an extensive online platform with the ability to reach more people and develop relationships across borders of distance and language.

You might come to MISSIO to donate, but MISSIO offers you more: the connection to others whose daily lives might be very different from yours. As Pope Francis suggests, the culture of encounter means not just seeing, but looking; not just hearing, but listening; not just passing people by, but stopping with them; not just saying, “what a shame, poor people!” but allowing yourself to be moved with compassion.

MISSIO is a New York Not-for-profit and 501(c)(3) that is included in the Group Ruling of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops affording it the status of a US Charity.

How does fasting from meat change anything?

Lent, a day of conscious self-purification. We remind ourselves of this by fasting from meat. The idea is to deny ourselves something tasty so we can grow in self-control for the sake of overcoming sinful tendencies.

However, in our modern age when we have an abundance of tasty foods, meat is not the luxury food it used to be. The Church asks us to go meatless on Fridays for an important spiritual purpose. We would do well to enhance this ancient rule by fasting from any and all luxury foods. This is not the day to go out to a restaurant and order lobster!

The purpose of this is to stop catering to our likes and preferences, thus improving how well we turn outward toward others and their needs. Fasting is worthless if we’re unkind to others and we focus only on ourselves: for example, if we’re not releasing those bound by injustices, setting free the oppressed, sharing our bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and doing good to our family and friends and fellow parishioners.

Fasting from luxury foods has no lasting value if it does not help us become more Christ-like to others.Read More »

2018 Lenten Message of His Holiness Pope Francis

“Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12)


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in his providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”. Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.Read More »

Is it sinful for a Christian to Not Fasting?

Christian fasting isn’t some kind of a “work” that’s commanded by Christ or required by Scripture. Fasting, in the biblical sense, is the abstaining from food and drink for a spiritual reason. However anything you can temporarily give up in order to better focus on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). In the Old Testament era, the Jews fasted frequently, though there was only one fast prescribed by the law. Once each year, on the Day of Atonement, the Hebrews were to “afflict” their souls (Leviticus 16:31), which meant fasting (cf. Isaiah 58:3).

Though there are no compulsory fasts required of Christians today, the New Testament seems to take for granted that children of God would see the need to fast occasionally.

Is Fasting Obligatory for Christians?Read More »

Rules For Fast And Abstinence For Traditional Catholics

Why do we fast and abstain?

“Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish.” (Lk. 13:5)

Because we are sinners, justice requires each of us to make recompense to God for the honor we have denied Him by our sins. Because we have misused our goods, our souls and bodies—as well as those of others—the natural law requires us to strive to restore the order we have disturbed by our sins. Thus, the Natural Law and the Divine Law bind us in a general way to perform acts of penance. In order to help us fulfill this requirement, Holy Mother Church, knowing our weakness and laziness, binds us under ecclesiastical laws to perform works of penance at certain times.

Throughout the centuries, these ecclesiastical laws have changed, sometimes becoming more strict, sometimes relaxing the discipline of penance. Regardless of changes to the Church laws, which exist to make our obedience to the natural and Divine laws of penance easier, the fundamental requirement remains: “Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish.”

Considering the alternatives of unending bliss in heaven or unending misery in hell, and considering that the effects of original sin and of our own sins make us lazy and apt to forget our duty towards God, it seems much more reasonable to err on the side of too much penance, especially in times of relaxed Church discipline such as our own, rather than on the side of too little.Read More »

Bringing to life that part of us that is divine

Correct Christian doctrine has always held the firm belief that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures – human and divine. His human nature grew and matured in the way any human being would, where, as scripture tells us, he grew and matured in strength. He was not born as a super baby where he instantly took on the form of God in all aspects. He was so human in his appearance and form that it was just not possible that anyone who looked at this infant, without the working of any infusion of knowledge from God, would say without a doubt that this child was divine.

All of us have just one nature, which is human, but we are also called to divinity as well, meaning that we have a divine potential that can and should be nurtured and developed. Saying this has a double-edged effect because there is great caution by many preachers and even theologians to downplay this great promise in us. Those who are very conservative may hold the view that it can erroneously be the cause of an over inflated sense of self if each one of us walks around with a god-like ego. One only needs to look at the ways which society is paying the awfully high price of an exaggerated sense of the false self where each person seems to be overly interested in making himself or herself the centre of the universe.

But when this is taken in the right Christian sense where one rightly places God at the heart of life, one will grow this potential in a balanced way. One then grows right from the center, and not off-centered or eccentric, which is what “off centered” means in Latin.

What does it mean to be in touch with the divine potentiality in oneself? Read More »