In 1966, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement that is particularly relevant to us, as we prepare for Lent (starting tomorrow).
“…The need for conversion and salvation is unchanging, as is the necessity that, confessing our sinfulness, we perform, personally and in community, acts of penance in pledge of our inward penitence and conversion.”
The Church has always recognized that all the faithful are required by Divine Law to do penance. No matter how hard we try, we all sin, and therefore we are all obligated to do penance – no exceptions.
As we approach Ash Wednesday and Lent, it is crucial that we remember these days and seasons of penance instituted by the Church.
Ash Wednesday is an obligatory day of fasting and abstinence. Yes, obligatory.
The 1966 statement continues: “No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season.”
So, take this not so gentle reminder, tomorrow is a day of Fasting and Abstinence. And so we’re all on the same page:
Fasting means you eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. This is not difficult. It’s only twice a year the Church asks this of us. (Sidebar: If you ask me, most of us can offer a greater fasting sacrifice than the bare minimum required)
Abstinence refers to abstaining from eating meat (flesh and organs of mammals and fowl). This practice we should also observe on Fridays during Lent (and honestly, outside of Lent, too).
So, if you’re reading this, you can’t claim ignorance. Tomorrow, we unite as a Church and begin the season of Lent by offering penance.