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Lent: A time of action

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Rules for fasting
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placeholder February 17, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Lent: A time of action

Remember when, "What are you giving up to Lent?" was the most challenging part of the Lenten journey. "Will I miss chocolate the most?" "Give up my favorite TV shows?" That's right, Lent is approaching.

It is time once again to pick up some hot cross buns and fish sticks — the season of Lent is approaching! But before you stock up on enough spaghetti to last for six weeks, ask yourself these questions: What does abstinence mean? What days are we to abstain? If your mind is drawing a blank, here is some insight to the Lenten rules.

Lent is that 40-day period before Easter that individuals observe as a time to review one's relationship with God and to use that time to slow down, to open one's heart to God and to get to know Him better. It's a time for new beginnings.

Here's a quick review of the "three pillars" of Lent — prayer, fasting and doing good works (almsgiving).


One way to get closer to God is through fasting. To fast is to limit the amount of food one eats over a period of time. That means eating one meal a day or a main meal and two smaller meals (which together should NOT equal one meal). There are exceptions: people suffering from chronic illnesses, pregnant women and folks over 60. Drinking water or juice is OK.

Fasting is also a penitential practice — going without food is a way of acknowledging our need for God who gives us everything. Feeling hunger reminds us of Christ's sacrifice for us on Good Friday. Fasting is mandatory for two days during Lent — Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Eating meat is also banned (abstinence).


To pray is to raise one's mind and heart to God. Prayer helps to renew one's relationship with the Lord. During Lent some people attend Mass during the week in addition to Sundays. Others engage in various devotions from praying the rosary, to Eucharistic adoration, to participating in the Stations of the Cross.


The third pillar, almsgiving, is often linked to fasting — putting aside the money saved by not eating all of those lunches — and giving the cash to programs or organizations that help feed the hungry. CRS Rice Bowl, which is sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, is one popular program. Sharing one's time or using one's talents or skills helping others are also embraced as forms of almsgiving.

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