Question about Catholics and Lent

The few Catholics I know all tend to give up something for Lent (candy,etc), get ashes placed on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, and eat fish on Friday during Lent. I have no objections to any of these things and find them admirable in a lot of ways. It shows a level of sacrifice and discipline beyond normal daily life.

Are these acts required of all Catholics like the Sunday obligation or are they recommendations only-- - to grow closer to Christ and help the believer identify more with Christ’s sufferings?

Follow up question:
What are typical things Catholics give up for Lent or other things that are done during Lent that are “above and beyond” the call of duty? Thanks.

Do the Lutherans, Anglicans, or other protestant denominations have similar Lenten practices or customs?

Not actually required, except abstinence from meat.

But giving up something for Lent frees us from a distraction and helps us focus on our Lenten mission.

Candy is one of the common things people give up; my mother gave up the crossword puzzles in the newspaper.

Thanks, signit. Is the abstinence from meat on Fridays only or for all of Lent?

I’ve done the ‘Daniel Fast’ before (21 days of vegan meals for the most part). I am a meat lover so it was not easy as I ate the meatless Spanish rice, etc. I must admit I was a tad grumpy at times. :o

However, my blood pressure and blood sugar levels improved a lot during that time, going from borderline high to normal during those times I was on it.

Hey, Tommy.

Yes, we are obligated to abstain from meat on Fridays during all of Lent, and it is recommended that we abstain from meat on all Fridays throughout the year. Some of these practices may seem strange at first but they are all for our spiritual good. When you remember that you can’t eat meat on Friday, you also remember what happened on Friday. Also, any sacrifice helps us on our spiritual journey because it means less of us and more of Him. It forms a certain inner attitude toward life and helps us discern what is important from what is not. It helps us focus more on Christ.

God bless.


Some Anglicans do, most do not in my experience.

Hi Steve,
Thanks for the info. Is it just a custom/tradition (small ‘t’) to give up something for Lent to grow closer to Christ? At my work (public employer), they offer a fish entrée (fish and chips or salmon etc) on Friday during Lent. Before I joined CAF, I probably wouldn’t have picked up on that coincidence and would’ve figured that they just wanted to serve fish that day.

It’s not just about the giving something up. There’s way more to Lent than no meat on Friday :slight_smile:

I like to think of it as stopping something to replace it with something that helps me get closer to God. Even little things, like, instead of playing on my iPad before work (I have an hour wait) I will pray (the Rosary :wink: ).

Maybe less reading about hockey, more reading Michelle Arnold. Bed before the third period is over so I can hold my wife (who works earlier than I do.)

More games with the kids instead of watching netflix.

I know, not a lot of holy things there, but, being closer to the family i neglect must count in God’s eyes.

The call of duty for me isn’t something that starts and ends with Lent. Unfortunately, I am a week man and my holiness usually only pops us a little during Lent.

All are welcome to join it :thumbsup:

Did you know that’s where McDonald’s Filet-o-fish comes from? Lent! Yay!

Think I’ll jump back in.

It’s not required.

I’ve never actually formally “given something up for Lent” but I observe it in my own way; I make an effort to cut out some distractions and increase my time for praying the Rosary and/or reading Scripture.

I wasn’t aware of that. Nice little trivia item I might take out and use sometime. :thumbsup:

For Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, no meat, chicken or fish is permitted throughout all of Lent. Dairy is also prohibited. So vegan diet for the whole period.

Thanks, Zachary. Those are all good things in my book. Showing the love of a parent to our children is a way of reflecting God’s love for us on to them, in my view. Keep up the good work! :slight_smile:

“Giving something up for Lent” is a common practice but it really isn’t a “must do” practice.

The three traditional pillars of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. “Giving something up” is a form of fasting but, in my opinion, it’s better to do something in each of the categories.

Prayer can take many forms. Extra attendance at Mass, praying the Rosary, starting a new practice like the Liturgy of the Hours or Lectio Divina, going on a retreat, reading Scripture or other spiritual material.

Fasting might include avoiding food, but also giving up TV or Internet time, social media, fasting from bad habits such as gossip.

Almsgiving is charity which might mean monetary donations or some kind of charitable practice like helping an elderly neighbor or gathering food for a food pantry.

Sometimes practices combine and reinforce each other. If someone gives up television for Lent, they might use the time gained for extra prayer or charitable activities. If you fast from your daily stop at Starbucks you might donate the money you’ve saved to charity.

In all of these activities, it’s important to keep in mind WHY we are doing them. It’s not just to make ourselves miserable for six weeks. It’s to bring us closer to God. One of the readings on Ash Wednesday makes this clear::

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God (Joel 2:12-13).

Lent is a time to refashion our hearts. I think of it as a time for spiritual New Year’s Resolutions. Instead of promising to exercise our bodies, we exercise our souls and build up our spiritual strength.

Thanks for the clarification.

Very informative with good examples. Thanks, SuscipeMeDomine. Makes a lot of common and spiritual sense.

No they are strictly voluntary-- - to become less attached to those passing things of this earth and grow closer to Christ and the things that are Eternal.

Follow up question:
What are typical things Catholics give up for Lent or other things that are done during Lent that are “above and beyond” the call of duty?

I typically try to do things that will help me grow spiritually, more time in scripture reading, I typically set an extra hour and 1/2 per week (15 min / day) more in spripture reading plus more prayer and fasting. I also try to do things that will help others, volunteer at a soup kitchen.

Do the Lutherans, Anglicans, or other protestant denominations have similar Lenten practices or customs?

Yes, prior to about the 1800’s virtually every Christian denomination participated in the preparation for the Pascal season and the Resurrection of Our Lord. But remember, that was only a couple of centuries after the Protestant reformation in the 16th century. As Protestantism continued to fracture and more and more denominations split off from the original and more and more split off from them, more and more of what was passed on form The Apostles was lost. Very sad. But also remember, you are free to reestablish these practices, so all is not lost.

God bless.

There are many things we can and should do during Lent in addition to our Catholic obligations; works of mercy, giving alms to the poor, etc… Anything that requires some sacrifice on our behalf. I know at least one poster here who gave up CAF for Lent just last year. The idea is to experience some suffering through sacrifice as we remember how Christ suffered for us through his sacrifice. But in addition to giving something up we should also DO something for our neighbor, especially the poor and suffering.

Yeah, well, I have my own views on the fish fries. It’s usually a good fund raiser for the Knights of Columbus so from that standpoint it’s fine. But there is still something about giving up meat on Friday and instead pigging out on fish, fries, hush puppies, coleslaw, cake and ice cream that just doesn’t sit well with me. While abstaining is not fasting, it always seemed to me that it should be some kind of sacrifice, small as it is. After a fish dinner like that, I don’t feel I have sacrificed anything in giving up meat, all I have done is indulge in a meal that I enjoy more than meat and gained a few pounds in the process. :slight_smile:

Wow, that would be very tough for me but I’m sure my health would benefit from it. I am impressed that the EO Christians are able to do that for all of Lent. It was very hard for me to do it for just 21 days during the Daniel Fast.

If one gives up something, it should be something one really enjoys and would actually have to sacrifice to not have. For example, giving up ice cream if you eat it every day might qualify, giving up ice cream when you are lactose intolerant and only eat it once in a great while, even though you really like it would not be a sacrifice.

As one gets older, Lent Sacrifice might be more in the vein of doing something instead of giving something up. Perhaps saying a rosary every day, spending more time in prayer and study, being extra patient with family members, taking a friend or family member who doesn’t have a car shopping, especially when it means you can’t watch your favorite TV show, donating money saved from not eating something to your parish or mission, etc.

Self-denial is an important part of the Christian life. While we may not be able to practice self-denial in the same way Christ did, these little sacrafices during lent and and should help us grow closer to Christ.

Sorry, but not so:

Canon 1251
“Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We are actually obligated to abstain from meat on all Fridays, according to Canon law.

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