OFFICIAL: Lent 2021
Lent: A Season to strengthen our Faith, Hope and Love
We begin the grace-filled season of Lent with Ash Wednesday on February 17, 2021. During Lent we specially contemplate the life-giving Passion, Death and Resurrection of Our Lord.
Pope Francis in his Lenten message for 2021, invites us to “renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ”. Reminding us of the traditional form of celebrating Lent by fasting, prayer and almsgiving, he invites us to a faith which calls us to accept and live the truth revealed in Christ; strengthen our hope which is the ‘living water’ enabling us to continue our journey; and follow the footsteps of Christ in love, shown in our concern and compassion for all.
Canon Law authorises Episcopal Conferences to determine, in place of abstinence, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety. I am giving below several alternatives suggested. However, I encourage all to go back to our traditional practice of abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent, besides also following one or more of the options given. In memory of our Lord's Passion on Good Friday, and so that the fruits of Lent continue throughout the year, I strongly recommend that in our homes and institutions, we abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year.
Canon 1249 states: "All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days, the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully, and specially by observing fast and abstinence."
Alternative forms of penance suggested in the Archdiocese of Bombay are:
A. Forms of Prayer:
Attending Mass, physically or online.
Making the Way of the Cross, in Church or reading your prayer book at home.
A prayerful visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
Reading the Scriptures.
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
Meditating on the Lord's Passion.
Family Prayer together (the Rosary, or Scripture Reading and Reflection, or some other prayer).
B. Acts of Penance:
a. Missing a meal: breakfast, lunch or supper.
b. Taking strictly vegetarian meals.
c. Abstaining from alcohol and/or smoking, for those accustomed to these.
d. Avoiding films/television and other forms of recreation.
e. Abstaining from or restricting to just some hours the use of the mobile/internet.
C. Works of Charity:
a. Giving 10% of one's daily earnings in charity.
b. Offering a meal to a poor family.
c. Offering voluntary service for some social/charitable work.
d. Visiting the sick/aged/lonely/anyone in need.
e. Donating blood.
D. I urge that in Lent we take special care of the environment by carbon fasting or in some other way, e.g. limiting the consumption of electrical energy.
a. The days prescribed for obligatory fasting are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Some may feel inspired to fast every Friday in Lent, and this is a beneficial spiritual exercise.
b. The law of fasting binds those who have completed their 18th year till the beginning of the 60th year.
c. Those who are fasting are to take only one full meal per day. A light breakfast may be taken in the morning and a light supper in the evening. But one can always reverse the order of the meals e.g. take the full meal in the evening, instead of the afternoon.
d. Those who cannot keep the law of fasting without considerable difficulty because of health, work etc. are excused from the observance of the law. Our faithful are however urged not to excuse themselves too easily from this obligation, as it is but fitting that on at least the two prescribed days of fasting, we unite ourselves in a special manner with the Passion and Death of Our Saviour by a more intense form of penance.
In case of difficulty regarding the fulfilment of the obligation of common penance and fasting, or a doubt regarding the existence of factors excusing from these obligations, a dispensation may be obtained from your Parish Priest or Confessor.
A dispensation from the law of common penance and fasting is hereby granted to members of the Armed Forces and Security Personnel in the Archdiocese and to travellers by land, sea or air. Similarly to Medical Personnel involved in relief of the pandemic.
The Lenten Alms collected this year have been earmarked for St Pius X College, Goregaon – the Diocesan Seminary of Bombay.
Easter Duties would require that the faithful who have made their First Communion, should receive Holy Communion at least once a year during the Paschal Time, unless for a good reason, the precept is fulfilled at another time during the year (Can. 920). Besides, the faithful are reminded that those who have reached the age of discretion are bound to confess their grave sins at least once a year (Can. 989).
The Easter Duties can be fulfilled between Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021, and Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2021.
Our prayer, penance and fasting during the season of Lent should help us to turn to Our Lord. It should enable us to leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and impel us to stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them. In this way, we will radiate the transforming power of Christ's victory over sin and death to all of Creation.
I wish each one of you a grace-filled season of Lent. We continue to pray for each other.
February 8, 2021
Oswald Cardinal Gracias
Archbishop of Bombay