Diocese of SpringfieldOFFICE OF THE BISHOP

Dear Friends in Christ:

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year falls on February 17, 2021.

A visible sign of our Lenten practices comes on Ash Wednesday when ashes mark the faithful with an outward sign of our frail human nature, with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” This year, because of COVID limitations, ashes will not be applied to the forehead, but rather, sprinkled over the head of the faithful, thus avoiding close physical contact. The practices of fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, as well as abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays of Lent are outward signs of the work we seek to do during Lent: to make our interior dispositions more of what Christ would have us be. The acts of almsgiving and self-sacrifice help us to grow in our understanding of all God has done for us. A special undertaking can be Operation Rice Bowl, a sacrifice by each of us for those who never have a full meal.

History indicates that in the Diocese of Springfield Lenten Penance services have been beacons of light for Catholics returning to the practice of their faith through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I am grateful for your ministry of healing, particularly for those who have felt hurt by the Church in any way. At this time of global pandemic, our Lenten activities of Reconciliation and gathering will look and feel different. As we navigate the coming days, let us be aware of the many ways in which we can provide healing to our Catholic family.

Please refer to the enclosed guidelines for Lenten practices as they pertain to fasting, abstinence and almsgiving.

  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of abstinence from meat as well as days of fast, when only one full meal is allowed. On days of fast two other meatless meals may be taken according to one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal.
  • The other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
  • The obligation to abstain from meat begins at fourteen (14) years of age.
  • The obligation to fast begins at eighteen (18) years of age and ends at fifty-nine(59) years of age.
  • Although the faithful may excuse themselves for a just cause from these laws of fast and abstinence, there is an obligation to substitute another penance and no Catholic should lightly excuse himself/herself from this obligation in the Lenten season.

May this Lent be a time of growth in our relationship with Christ and with others, and may we find ourselves in a more meaningful and intentional relationship with our God.

With every best wish,

In Christ,

+Most Reverend William D. Byrne

Bishop of Springfield