Questions & Answers About Lent

What is Lent?

The Temptation of Christ by Ary Scheffer, 1854.Lent is the liturgical season in which we prepare for Easter through prayer, penance, and fasting.

How long is Lent?

Lent runs from Ash Wednesday to Easter Vigil. It is actually 46 days long: 40 days of penance, plus six Sundays not considered days of penance.

Why is it called “Lent”?
The word “Lent” comes to us from old German and English words for “springtime.”

Why do we get marked with ashes?

The ancient Jews would put ashes atop their heads in repentance, mourning, and/or self-debasement. The ash crosses on our foreheads signify our desire to return or draw nearer to the Lord Jesus.

Who abstains and fasts in Lent?
Catholics who are at least 14-years-old are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Fridays in Lent, and Good Friday. Until at least their 59th birthday, Catholics who are at least 18-years-old are to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

What is “fasting”?

Lenten fasting is eating just one full meal.  Two additional smaller meals (less than one full meal put together) are allowed if necessary, but not eating solid foods between meals. (The physically, mentally, or chronically ill, as well as pregnant or nursing women, are excused from fasting and abstinence.)

Why the ages 18 to 59?

These ages consider the nutritional needs of the young & elderly, and the symbolic forty (years) between them reflects other periods of penance & preparation in the Bible (the Flood, the Exodus, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Jesus in the Desert, etc.)

Why isn’t fish considered “meat?”

In times past, fish was considered a food of the poor. It took multiple pounds of grain to raise one pound of livestock, but fish were simply caught. Eating fish instead of land-based meats conserved grain and was a penance in solidarity with the poor.

What can I do for Lent?

Add to your spiritual exercises, such as time for prayer, daily Mass, and the Stations of the Cross. Attend a penance service and go to confession. Go on pilgrimage to Sacred Heart Church, or to the cathedral or the shrine in La Crosse. Deny yourself occasions of sins and offer up sacrifices of self-denial; such as fasting, almsgiving, and good works.

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