We are just days away from one of the greatest non-holy days of obligation in the Church. I always have mixed emotions around this time of year. On the one hand, I love Lent. It is the wonderful time of year when we contemplate our own mortality and focus on our necessary ongoing repentance. At the same time we work on fasting and penance. Lent is a time of year that always makes me cry, either during Stations of the Cross or Good Friday. Tears are a gift from the Holy Spirit that we can experience during this time, all starting with Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is one of two days (Good Friday) during the year we are called to fast. That means those who are 14 or older are to refrain from eating meat. Those between the ages of 18-59 are allowed one full meal and two small meals that do not equal one large meal. Fruit juices are acceptable but snacks are not. If you have a medical condition that would be affected by this, you are excused from this prescription.
As mentioned, Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, contrary to observation. It is good to go to Church as often as possible, including Ash Wednesday. I will definitely recommend you go, but you don’t have to. The whole point of this holy day is to remind us that we will die and we want to go to heaven. That means we must make a daily practice to go following Christ.
During Ash Wednesday, I typically fast from all solid food, because it’s my preference. I like to go to Mass in the morning and get my ashes, then spend the day reading and journaling. I always choose a spiritual book that will help me get into the Lenten spirit. This year I’m reading Consuming the Word by Dr. Scott Hahn. I will do a book review for it in a couple weeks, subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can see it.
When it comes to your choice of penance, I recommend praying and asking our Lord what he wants you to give up or add to your daily practice. Some people choose give up Starbucks, chocolate, or reality TV. Some people choose to add a holy hour, daily Mass, or Divine Mercy Chaplet. What ever you do, it should be something that draws you closer to God. If you feel the Lord moving you to do a bible study, you can check out this one I made.
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