Lent is the 40-day season of preparation for Easter that ends on Holy Thursday, three days before Easter Sunday. During Lent, Catholics recall their baptism and do penance – fasting, prayer, and almsgiving as they commemorate the death and resurrection of Christ.

READ: Cardinal Thomas Collins's Pastoral Letter for Lent 2019

What is Ash Wednesday?

It marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Palms from the previous Palm Sunday are burned – ashes from these palms are distributed on Ash Wednesday as a sign of penitence.

Why do Cat​holics traditionally give something up during Lent?

To do penance in preparation for the greatest feast in the Christian calendar.

What is fast and abstinence?

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are universal days of fast and abstinence. Catholics still consider Fridays throughout Lent as days of abstinence. Anyone over the age of 18 and under the age of 59 are obliged to fast and abstain. Fasting, in the Latin Church, is the limitation of food and drink – typically to one main meal and two smaller meals, with no solid foods in between. Abstaining, in this context, is the refraining from certain kinds of food or drink, typically meat. In lieu of fasting, one may substitute works of charity.

What is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and how is it associated with Lent?

Easter is both the historical and proper time for the celebration of the sacraments of initiation. On the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens (unbaptized people seeking admission in the Catholic Church) celebrate the Rite of Election and enter into the final period of preparation for the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Adults are baptized (or brought into full communion for baptized non-Catholics), confirmed, and receive first Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. In the Archdiocese of Toronto, over 1100 men and women were brought into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2005.

Video Series: Ashes to Palms