The penitential and grace-filled season of Lent begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on Feb. 10. Particularly within the context of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, we are all called to use this holy season as a time of prayer, reflection and preparation to enter into the celebration of the central mysteries of our faith at Easter. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his Lenten message, encourages us to reflect on God’s loving mercy for us. He writes: “Mercy expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe.” Pope Francis calls us to engage in the spiritual and corporal works of mercy because they are daily and concrete manifestations of God’s merciful love for us. He urged the faithful to not waste this special liturgical season.
In keeping with Pope Francis’ call, our Diocesan Bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, in order to assist the faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn to take full advantage of the Lenten season, would like to remind us of the following:
ABSTINENCE – All the faithful who have reached 14 years of age are required to abstain totally from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
FASTING – All the faithful between the ages of 18 and 59 inclusive are bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This practice involves limiting oneself to a single full meal and avoiding food between meals. Light sustenance may be taken on two other occasions during the day.
EASTER DUTY – After they have been initiated into the Most Holy Eucharist, all the faithful are bound by the obligation of receiving Holy Communion at least once a year. This precept must be fulfilled during the Easter season, unless for a good reason it is fulfilled at another time of the year. By special indult, in the U.S., the time period for fulfilling this precept has been extended to include the period beginning the First Sunday of Lent (Feb. 10) to the celebration of the Most Holy Trinity (May 22).
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord: This year, Good Friday falls on March 25. Therefore, the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord will be celebrated on Monday, April 4.
Reconciliation Monday: This year our diocese will once again celebrate Reconciliation Monday on March 21, which is the Monday of Holy Week. As in the past, we hope this will be a wonderful opportunity for the faithful to participate in this great Sacrament of Healing.
The following also should be noted:
The obligation to observe, as a whole or substantially, the penitential days specified by the Church, is a serious one. Days of penance are not merely individual exercises – they are observed by the whole Church, as the Body of Christ.
After having reached the age of discretion, members of the faithful are bound to confess once a year grave sins which have not already been absolved.
The faithful are encouraged to celebrate the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance frequently during the Lenten season. Reading the Scriptures, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, generosity toward the poor and the needy are additional means of becoming more involved in the Lenten season. Operation Rice Bowl is one example of a specific way to give alms.
Pastors and parents are responsible to see that young persons, who are not bound to the above requirements, are educated in an authentic sense of penance.
All other Fridays of the year remain as days of penance in prayerful remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ. The Bishops of the United States have recommended abstinence from meat as a penance for all Fridays of the year, although each individual may substitute for that tradition some other practice of voluntary self-denial or personal penance. This may involve acts of mortification, prayer or charity.
In prayerful pilgrimage with the catechumens and candidates for full initiation, let us accompany our Lord on His way to the cross and to the empty tomb. May we use this time of Lent to be more closely united with Christ in His Death and Resurrection.
MSGR. ANTHONY HERNANDEZ, J.C.L.