Lenten practices

The Diocese of Erie offers the following information regarding observation of Lent in 2021:

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021, and concludes when the Paschal Triduum of the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord at the start of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021.

• Traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, as well as other forms of self-denial, are recommended most warmly by the church. Daily Mass is particularly encouraged.

• Ash Wednesday, all Fridays in Lent except March 19 and Good Friday are days of abstinence from eating meat for those 14 years of age and older. Because the Solemnity of St. Joseph (March 19) falls on a Friday of Lent, and solemnities are never days of penance, the faithful are not obliged to abstain from meat on that day.

• Ash Wednesday and Good Friday also are days of fasting for those ages 18 to 58 inclusive. On these days, those bound by the law of fasting may take one full meal. Two smaller meals, sufficient to maintain strength according to one’s needs, also are permitted. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids including milk and fruit juices are allowed. When health or work is seriously affected, the law does not oblige.

If the COVID situation requires modifications to these practices, they will be communicated as they develop.

Distribution of ashes in the Diocese of Erie

The distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, will be handled a little differently in 2021. Most strikingly, it will happen in silence this year. After the priest blesses the ashes and sprinkles them with holy water, he will offer the usual statement from the Roman Missal a single time, applying it to all present. He will choose either, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel,” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ashes then will be distributed in silence.

Because it is not possible to sanitize thumbs between each person, Bishop Persico is asking priests to use the practice common in many parts of the world, sprinkling ash on the crown of the head, rather than marking foreheads with the sign of the cross. This avoids any physical contact.