Lenten Penitential Regulations

“The annual observance of Lent is the special season for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter. Through its two-fold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies and catechesis. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through the spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises.”

— Ceremonial of Bishops, 249

The current discipline is as follows:

A woman receives ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Newark, N.J., March 1. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

• Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. That is, limited to a single, full meal and abstinence from meat.
• The other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
• The law of fasting permits only one full meal a day, but it does allow the taking of some food in the morning and a second light meal at noon, or in the evening, as you prefer. Persons from 18 years of age to 59 years of age are obligated to fast.
• The law of abstinence from meat applies to all persons who have completed their 14th year of age. However, it is highly recommended that children from ages 7 to 14 years also follow the law of abstinence.
• All Catholics are encouraged to receive the Holy Eucharist frequently during Lent and to receive the sacrament of reconciliation so that all may be prepared to celebrate more fully the paschal mystery at Easter.

The determination of these days of obligatory penance, as listed above, should not be understood as limiting the occasions for Christian penance. This penance is to help us see and shorten the distance between our present lives and the life God wants for each of us.

“Penance should not be only internal and individual but external and social.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy #110)

Given at the Chancery
St. Cloud, Minnesota
Feb. 1, 2020

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.


This is the Lenten discipline outlined by the Church. It indicates minimum requirements. Every person is free to do additional things to deepen their spiritual experience during this holy season — such as not eating between meals, fasting from behaviors that interfere with our relationship with God, performing additional acts of service for others in need. If you are looking for more resources, please take a look at the other articles in our Lent 2019 section (click on the bar at the top of our home page). God bless!

What about other personal decisions like not eating between meals?
The instructions are quite vague and one really needs some resource to examine that is more complete than this brief note. Thank you.
Joe Joerger

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