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  • Writer's pictureArchdiocese of Bombay


Updated: Feb 20, 2023

Lent: A Time for Closeness to the Lord

February 22, 2023 is Ash Wednesday. That day, we begin forty days of the liturgical season of Lent – a particularly grace-filled season during which we are invited by the Church to pray more, do acts of kindness and charity, and also some acts of penance. The days prescribed for a common practice of penance are Ash Wednesday and Fridays of the year. Canon 1249 of the Code of Canon Law reminds us that 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 especially by observing the fast and abstinence …" Canon Law authorises Episcopal Conferences to determine, in place of abstinence, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety. Our Episcopal Conference has discussed this in depth, and I am giving below several alternatives suggested. I particularly encourage all to go back to our ancient practice of abstinence from all meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent. I strongly recommend that you choose, in addition, one or more from the alternative forms given. This is also a time for Sacramental Confession. Please do not wait for Holy Week to make your Confession. Benefit, already now, from the graces offered by this Sacrament. The alternative forms of penance suggested for the Archdiocese of Bombay are: A. Forms of Prayer a. Attending Mass b. Making the Way of the Cross c. A visit tothe Blessed Sacrament d. Reading the Scriptures e. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours f. Family Prayer together (the Rosary, or Scripture Reading and Reflection, or some other prayer) g. For the homebound: Meditating on the Lord'sPassion B. Acts of Penance a. Missing a meal: breakfast, lunch or supper b. Taking vegetarian meals c. Abstaining from alcohol and/or smoking, for those accustomed to these d. Avoiding films/television and other forms of recreation 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 e. Donating blood

D. I urge that in Lent, we take special care of God's Creation by carbon fasting or in some other way.


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 may 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 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 one from these obligations, a dispensation may be obtained from the 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.

Lenten Alms:

The Lenten Alms collected this year have been earmarked for St Pius X College,Goregaon – the Archdiocesan Seminary of Bombay.

Easter Duties:

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 (Canon 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 (Canon 989).

In the Archdiocese of Bombay, the Easter Duties can be fulfilled this year between Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2023, and Pentecost Sunday, May 28, 2023.

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-centredness, 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. Do pray for the Archdiocese of Bombay and for me.

February 11, 2023

+Oswald Cardinal Gracias

Archbishop of Bombay


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