As you know, Ash Wednesday is a day that offers a valuable opportunity to set a tone for the entire season of Lent, as well as to reach out to people, some of whom are usually not often found in our churches. Aware of the considerable interest of the faithful in receiving ashes, every effort must be made through the reading of scripture and the offering of prayers to catechize them on the penitential character of Lent and the value of their Lenten practices. Here are several reminders:
+Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, and ends on Holy Thursday, April 1.
+Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. This is a serious matter within Church law.
+Fasting means only one full meal a day may be taken. Two smaller meals can be eaten to maintain physical strength but together they should not equal another full meal in quantity. Snacking between meals is not permitted. Catholics ages 18-59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those who are not specifically obliged to fast are encouraged to join in the discipline of fasting to the extent that they are able.
+Abstinence forbids the eating of meat or poultry. Those who have reached the age of 14 or older are obliged to abstain on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. Those who are not specifically obliged to abstain from eating meat are urged to join in the discipline of abstaining to the extent that they are able.
+All Fridays of the year are designated as days of penance during which we are encouraged to practice self-denial out of gratitude for the suffering and death Jesus accepted for us.
+The time for fulfilling the Easter Duty extends from the First Sunday of Lent (Feb. 21) to Holy Trinity Sunday (May 30).
ADDITIONAL GUIDELINES IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
Due to the pandemic, new variants of the coronavirus and the current increase in infections, all liturgical celebrations must follow established protocols.
ASH WEDNESDAY, FEB. 17 With guidance from the USCCB committee on divine worship, the procedure to be followed within the Archdiocese of New York will be that:
In promoting the distribution of ashes, the faithful might be reminded that only those in good health would present themselves. It is suggested that the hours for the distribution of ashes be limited to Mass or a Liturgy of the Word with a definite beginning and end so as not to expose the priest to others for any great length of time.