Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent for Catholics as well as other religions. So just what is Lent? Well Lent is the forty-day liturgical season of fasting, special prayer and alms (charity) giving in preparation for Easter. I know that sounds like a lot but it really isn’t. At least not as much as you think.
Ashes on Your Head
You are going to see lots of people walking around with ashes on their heads today. The ashes are a sign of penance as we get ready for Easter. It is really that simple.
Who is Required to Fast
Fasting is one of the ways we celebrate Lent. However not everyone is required to fast for obvious health concerns. Only adult Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are required to fast and the required fasting days are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
However, all Catholics 14 and older are obliged to refrain from eating meat which we do on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday. Actually, Church Law says that we shouldn’t eat meat any Friday of the year but here in the United States we may perform another penance if we choose. Fish is allowed because it is not considered meat. That is why you will find fish served at many restaurants on Fridays.
Fasting doesn’t mean not eating at all. It is simply eating no more than one full meal and two light meals as needed to maintain your health. You can drink whatever throughout the day but not meat based broths. Since I am a diabetic and required to eat slightly more I make adjustments and add in more penance. The Church doesn’t want you to make yourself sick.
Giving Something Up
Many Catholics will give something up for Lent. Such as a favorite drink or a food they love. It is our way of turning away from our selfishness and knowing that God will take care of our needs. For me (and I actually started this just before Lent) I am giving up all unnecessary spending. I have a horrible habit of just buying whatever I want when I want it without always thinking it through. I am not doing that anymore.
I am also going to stop stressing so much about money. I told God just what I need to earn each money to be comfortable. Guess what, I stopped stressing so much starting on Monday and I have almost made what I need for the month in the last two days.
Another thing I am giving up is taking sides when it comes to my siblings. It is stressful because I feel as though I have to choose and I refuse to do that any longer. I don’t want to come to end of my life and feel as though I didn’t do more to bring us together as a family.
Are you celebrating Lent? Tell us about it in the comments below.