Lent Regulations and Admonitions

As another Lenten journey of conversion begins with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17, and ends with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, April 2, Holy Mother Church calls all Catholics to a deeper spirit of penance, fasting, almsgiving and prayer, “which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others” (Catechism of the Catholic Church Nos. 1434 and 1969).

To foster a greater spirit of penance, of reparation for sin, to encourage self-denial, and so guide us more closely in the footsteps of Christ, Holy Mother Church reminds us of the following obligations of fast and abstinence during Lent and also admonishes us all to deeper prayer and worship.

  1. Abstinence: all persons who have already celebrated their 14th birthday are bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent and Good Friday.
  1. Fasting: everyone, from the celebration of their 18th birthday to their 59th birthday, is bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting is generally understood to mean eating only one full meal each day. Two other partial meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken; but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed. Voluntary fasting on other weekdays of Lent is highly recommended. But please note: when health or ability to work would be seriously affected, neither the law of fasting nor the law of abstinence obliges. These are minimal penitential practices and should not be lightly excused. If in doubt, please consult your parish priest. Other recommended forms of fasting, as regards alcoholic drink, needless television, video games, internet use, and social entertainment, are of true spiritual value and strongly encouraged.
  2. Almsgiving: The act of giving to the poor, in the most ancient tradition of the Church, is an expression of penance, a witness of fraternal charity, and an expression of Lenten conversion. Therefore, all Catholics are encouraged to support generously the charitable works of the whole Church: through regular stewardship to their parish, support of charities, and their generous response to the diocesan Catholic Stewardship Appeal.
  3. Prayer: In order to deepen one’s love for Christ, Catholics are urged all the more to participate in the sacramental life of the Church during Lent by attending daily Mass and frequenting the sacrament of Penance.

Liturgical Services During Lent

Distribution of Ashes on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 17) During this time of pandemic, the Holy See has modified the method of distributing the ashes, as outlined in the following “Note”: The Priest says the prayer for blessing the ashes. He sprinkles the ashes with holy water, without saying anything. Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”, or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. The Priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places. The Priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything. Notice there is to be no touching the forehead.

Because this is a change in the custom for ashes in our country, this should be explained to the assembly beforehand. The distribution takes place at the normal time after the homily, though it can also be done outside of Mass with a word service.

The Rite of Election (Feb. 21, 3 pm, Cathedral) The Rite of Election will take place on the First Sunday of Lent, but it will be restricted to catechumens/candidates, their sponsors, and the Parish RCIA coordinator to allow for social distancing in the Cathedral.

Palms on Palm Sunday (March 28) Because palms are given once to individuals to be kept by them, Bishop McKnight is permitting the use of palms this year for Palm Sunday. Good practice would be for the palms to be distributed by members of the faithful who are masked and wearing gloves. The palms could be sanitized once before distribution begins.

Chrism Mass (Tuesday, March 30) The Thursday before Holy Thursday this year falls on March 25, and because the Solemnity of the Annunciation outranks the Chrism Mass, the Chrism Mass has been moved to Tuesday of Holy Week.

Holy Thursday Per the rubrics, the foot washing on Holy Thursday is optional.  Therefore, it is recommended during the pandemic that the foot washing be omitted for this year.

Holy Thursday Adoration: The Roman Missal for Holy Thursday states: "The faithful are invited to continue adoration before the Blessed Sacrament for a suitable length of time during the night, according to local circumstances, but after midnight the adoration should take place without solemnity."

Thus, adoration may continue during the night but not "solemn adoration." This interpretation is confirmed by other documents such as the Directory of Popular Piety and a circular letter on the celebration of the Easter solemnities published by the Holy See in 1988. No. 56 of this letter states: "Where appropriate, this prolonged Eucharistic adoration may be accompanied by the reading of some part of the gospel of Saint John (ch. 13-17). From midnight onward, however, the adoration should be made without external solemnity, for the day of the Lord's passion has begun."

The practice of withdrawing the Blessed Sacrament to the sacristy safe is not a correct interpretation of the norms of the Roman Missal. Even if local circumstances don't allow for the church to remain open after midnight, the Blessed Sacrament should remain on the altar of repose until the moment of Holy Communion during the Good Friday rites.

Finally, all the documents recall that it is totally forbidden to expose the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance at any moment of Holy Thursday, especially for the Eucharistic procession.

Good Friday Services: “This liturgy by its very nature may not, however, be celebrated in the absence of a priest.” (Roman Missal rubric for Good Friday) Thus, a deacon alone may not preside, though he could proclaim the part of Christ in the Passion and preach the homily.

  1. During the prostration, at the start of the liturgy, only the priest and deacon (if they are able) prostrate. Other ministers and the faithful kneel.
  2. For the Adoration of the Cross this year in the pandemic, the assembly should be instructed to approach the cross (a crucifix is recommended, but not required) and either bow or genuflect, but not to kiss or otherwise touch the cross.
  3. During the unveiling of the cross (which may be a plain cross, though the church has a long custom of using a crucifix), the singing of “Behold the wood of the Cross” is done by the priest, but he may be assisted in this singing by the deacon, or even the cantor or choir.
  4. Musical instruments should only be used to support singing and should be subdued.
  5. An expanded rubric in the new Missal states that, “After the celebration, the altar is stripped, but the Cross remains on the altar with two or four candlesticks.” (emphasis added) Candles are always a sign of presence. In the absence of the Blessed Sacrament, the cross becomes the sacramental presence in the church, which is why we genuflect to it and why we keep candles burning around it.

Timing of the Easter Vigil: According to U.S. Naval Oceanography tables, astronomical twilight, defined as that point in the evening when the sun does not contribute to sky illumination, will occur in Jefferson City on Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 8:32 pm. Thus, the vigil should appropriately begin no earlier than 8:30 pm.

Easter Duty: All Catholics who have been initiated into the Holy Eucharist are bound to receive Holy Communion worthily at least once during Easter Time. Of course, Catholics are encouraged to receive Communion as often as possible, not only during Eastertide. However, anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of Reconciliation before approaching to receive Holy Communion.