The 2018 Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14, for Latin-rite Catholics with Easter Sunday on April 1.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops asks that during Lent, we devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to service by giving alms and to sacrifice self-control through fasting. Many know of the tradition of abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent, but we are also called to practice self-discipline and fast in other ways throughout the season. Contemplate the meaning and origins of the Lenten fasting tradition in this reflection.

In addition, the giving of alms is one way to share God’s gifts — not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. As St. John Chrysostom reminds us: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.”

In Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics.

The key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called not just to abstain from sin during Lent, but to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ. We recall those waters in which we were baptized into Christ’s death, died to sin and evil, and began new life in Christ.

Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent.

The following regulations regarding fasting and abstinence are observed in the United States:

Catholics ages 14 and over are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent.

Individuals between 18 and 59 are also obliged to fast — eat one full meal — on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Eating two smaller meals is permitted to maintain strength, but eating between meals is not.

These obligations, however, do not apply to those whose health or ability to work would be seriously affected.

Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.