The season of prayer, penance and almsgiving (works of charity) is an opportunity for the faithful to seek conversion in preparation for the Easter sacraments and personal spiritual growth.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence. Catholics between the ages of 18-59 are obliged to abstain from meat and fast on these days by not eating between meals, consuming only one full meal a day and two small meals “sufficient to maintain strength”. The two small meals should not equal the amount of food consumed in the full meal.
Catholics 14 years old and older are obliged to abstain from meat on the Fridays during Lent. Present law does not include milk or egg products under the category of meat.
The observance of the laws of fast and abstinence during lent is a serious obligation. The individual conscience can decide if there is proper cause to excuse, however a more serious reason should be present to excuse from observing the laws of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those whose work or health would be impaired are excused from fasting and abstaining.
Others forms of penance, such as acts of self-denial and works of charity and piety are appropriate as penitential acts. Fasting on other weekdays of Lent is recommended as well.
The Blessing and distribution of ashes take place during a Mass on Ash Wednesday. If the Eucharist is not celebrated, the ashes may be blessed and distributed within the celebration of the Liturgy of the Word. The minister of blessing is a bishop, priest, or deacon. If pastoral need requires it, others such as extraordinary ministers or deacons may distribute the blessed ashes. Blessed ashes may be brought to the sick and those confined to their homes.
“Since every sin is an offense against God that disrupts our friendship with him”, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is encouraged during the season of Lent. This gift is offered to the faithful so that they may “obtain from God’s mercy pardon for having offended him and at the same time reconciliation with the Church, which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, example, and prayer seeks their conversion.” (Rites, Vol I page 528) Pastors should provide adequate time for the faithful to receive the sacrament of penance prior to Easter.
Funeral Masses are not allowed during the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday). However, the Funeral Rite Outside of Mass can be held in church during these days with a celebration of a Funeral Mass later