Lenten Guidelines & Resources
Entering more deeply into the Lenten season of penance and renewal
“This year the Lord grants us, once again, a favorable time to prepare to celebrate with renewed hearts the great mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the cornerstone of our personal and communal Christian life.”
-- Pope Francis, Message for Lent 2020 --
Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.
Below are the guidelines of Lenten observance for the faithful in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. For key dates, please visit the Holy Days page of this website.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 26 and lasts until Holy Thursday, April 9.
Ash Wednesday is a universal day of fasting and abstinence in the Catholic Church.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the imposition of ashes on foreheads “symbolizes our dependence upon God's mercy and forgiveness.”
In preparation for these 40 days that will lead us to renew and embrace our baptismal commitment, we offer these ideas for prayer, fasting and alms giving during Lent. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence.
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Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence.
As outlined on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' website on Lenten fasting and abstinence, “fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence (from meat) is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.
If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the 'paschal fast' to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection.
Fridays in Lent are obligatory days of complete abstinence (from meat) for all who have completed their 14th year.
Throughout the Archdiocese, parishes gather as a community in abstinence from meat for weekly fish fries during Lent. Contact your nearest parish to learn more about these community-focused events. Many are held before or after Friday services praying the Stations of the Cross.
Through our works of prayer, fasting, and abstinence, let us heed the prophet Joel's exhortation to return to God with our whole heart (2:12).”
Lent is a penitential season and as such religious practice such as daily Mass, reception of the Sacrament of Penance, the devotion of the Stations of the Cross, works of charity and justice, and acts of self-denial are highly encouraged.
Like millions of Catholics across the world, the Pope himself receives ashes on Ash Wednesday.
"The celebration of the Paschal Triduum of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, the culmination of the liturgical year, calls us yearly to undertake a journey of preparation, in the knowledge that our being conformed to Christ is a priceless gift of God’s mercy."
Pope Francis, 2019 Message for Lent
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent. The U.S. Bishops' statement, "God's Gift of Forgiveness: The Pastoral Exhortation on the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation" can be distributed and shared in parishes. Dioceses are encouraged to make the sacrament available often during Lent and to use these resources to promote participation. We also have resources to help individuals who have not been to confession in a while "rediscover" the sacrament.
Praying the Stations of the Cross
From the Texas Catholic Herald:
A staple in almost any Catholic church sanctuary, these images invite faithful to step into the actual historical experience of Jesus Christ, according to Father Ken O’Malley, CP.
The of the Cross, also known as the Way of the Cross, is at the “core of Catholicism,” Father O’Malley said. “It’s an essence of the Gospel, the crucifixion and death of Jesus. It’s very basic to who we are.”
Beginning as the practice of pious pilgrims to Jerusalem, the devotion multiplied after fewer faithful could make the journey to the Holy Land, he said. It eventually took the form of the 14 stations currently found in almost every church.
The Stations help educate our imagination, helping us to think and to enter into the mind and imagination of God and to make our life better, Father O’Malley said.
Those who pray the Stations of the Cross can also gain a plenary indulgence on any Friday in Lent and a partial indulgence on other days of the year, with the addition of prayers for the Holy Father’s intentions. Those who cannot do the full exercise of the Way of the Cross, which includes the physical genuflecting and kneeling at certain parts of the prayers, may gain the same indulgence by sending at least one half an hour intently reading and meditating on the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, according to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.
A plenary indulgence grants the remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, and must be coupled with a sacramental confession, reception of Holy Communion, praying for the Holy Father’s intentions and complete detachment from all sin, including venial.
From the Texas Catholic Herald
The following are a number of stories exploring different parts of the Lenten season, including messages from Cardinal DiNardo, Pope Francis and other aspects of the Church.
- Palms to ashes: A few things to know about Ash Wednesday
- Cardinal DiNardo: Words ‘we all long to hear’ lay in the Sacrament of Reconciliation
- Lenten CRS Rice Bowl campaign helps poor
- For Lent, Irish Catholics urged to abandon ‘weapons of mass distraction’ (Catholic News Service)
- Lent begins with reminder of all that fades away, pope says (Catholic News Service)
- A matter of taste: One writer’s deep dive into fast-food fish sandwiches (Catholic News Service)