Diocese of Lismore
Lenten Penance 2009
CHRISTIAN practice from the beginning, founded on the word and example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, passed on to the present, and reaffirmed by the Church's canon law, calls us to our obligation to do penance. The special times of penance are all Fridays throughout the year, and the season of Lent.
We recall that St John the Baptist prepared for the coming of the Lord by `preaching a baptism of repentance:' Christ began his ministry on earth with the call to repent: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15).
Repentance means the rejection of sin. It implies conversion to, and reconciliation with God.
Penance is the concrete expression of repentance. It takes the forms of prayer, self-denial, and works of charity. Each of these identifies us more closely with Jesus who alone can save us. By penance we make satisfaction for our sins, and take real steps in the renewal of our lives. Penance is the proof of our repentance:
Repentance and conversion are central, ongoing features of Christian living. Penance has to be a constant, even daily, practice in our lives. In setting special times of penance, the Church encourages and promotes in all of her members the habit of penance.
Furthermore, observance of these special times together by all Catholics throughout the universal Church recognises the wider, social dimension of the damage done by personal sin. The sin of the individual member always in some measure infects the whole body. Therefore during Lent and on the Fridays of the year we do penance, in union with our Crucified Lord, not only on our own account, but also in the name of the Church and of the world.
We must take very seriously our penitential obligations and be sure to carry them out. The Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference has not restricted our penance to fast and abstinence in all cases - it leaves room also for responsible individual choice, so that the form of penance embraced will be appropriate for our circumstances and promote a stronger Christian spiritual life.
The Days of Penance
Abstinence from meat, and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
All who have completed their eighteenth year and have not yet begun their sixtieth year are bound to fast.
All who have completed their fourteenth year are bound to abstain,
Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday (25th February) to the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive (9th April).
The Easter Fast is observed on Good Friday and if possible on Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil.
On all Fridays of the year the law of the common practice of penance is fulfilled by performing any one of the following:
a) Prayer - for example, attending an additional Mass; a time of Scripture study and prayer; making the Stations of the Cross; praying the Rosary.
b) Self-denial - for example, abstinence from meat; not eating sweets or dessert; giving up entertainment; limiting forms of food and drink and luxuries so as to give to the poor and those in need.
c) Deeds of charity - for example, setting aside special time and effort to help someone who is poor, sick, elderly, lonely or overburdened.
Each of the faithful is obliged to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. This is to be done between Ash Wednesday (25th February) and Trinity Sunday (7th June) unless for a good reason it is done at another time during the year.
All the faithful are obliged to confess their grave sins at least once a year, to a priest, to receive individual sacramental absolution.
The Most Revd Geoffrey Jarrett DD
Bishop of Lismore
St Carthage’s Cathedral, Ash Wednesday, 2009.