Ash Wednesday (February 22) marks the beginning of Lent. The following fasting and abstinence regulations are observed:
- Abstinence from meat is observed on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent by all Catholics 14 years of age and older.
- Fasting is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all Catholics who are 18 years of age but not yet 59 years of age. Those bound by this rule may take only one full meal. Two smaller meals are permitted as necessary to maintain strength according to one's needs, but eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
- The special Paschal fast and abstinence are observed on Good Friday and, where possible, on Holy Saturday. On these days, Christians prepare themselves by these disciplines in anticipation of the renewal of their baptismal commitment on Easter.
From its earliest days, the Church has urged the baptized and the catechumens to observe the threefold discipline of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer as a preparation for the celebration of Easter. Failure to observe individual days of penance is not considered serious, but failure to observe any penitential days at all or a substantial number of such days must be considered serious.
During Lent, the Church encourages attendance at daily Mass, self-imposed times of fasting, and generosity to local, national, and worldwide programs of sharing.