Lent is a fast of apostolical tradition, which in all ages has been observed throughout the Church of God. It was instituted;
The fast is obligatory on all those who have completed their twenty-first year, and who are not exempt through delicate health, hard work, old age, poverty, dispensation, etc. It consists in taking only one full meal (i.e., dinner), with a collation or other slight meal not exceeding eight ounces of solid food. Custom permits the taking of a cup of tea or light drink and a couple of ounces of bread at some other time during the day. As to what may be eaten at collation and dinner, the Bishop's Pastoral, published at the beginning of Lent, is our guide.
Those who are not bound to fast ought to enter into the spirit of the Church and perform penance in a way suitable to their condition, such as depriving themselves of some innocent pleasure, giving alms, etc. All can fast spiritually by abstaining from sin and its immediate occasions.
Penance is necessary for all, both just and sinners. It is necessary for the just, as no one can be certain of his perseverance to the end, no one is totally exempt from sin, and every one is liable to fall. It is necessary for sinners, as a satisfaction to God for their guilt; as a punishment, self-inflicted, to avert Divine punishment; and as a spiritual remedy, healing the wounds of sin and preventing future falls.
Daily Mass, evening devotions at church, and family night prayers said in common, should be the special practices of this holy season. All should prepare for the worthy reception of the Sacraments. In fine, all should endeavour to reap a spiritual harvest by making such a provision of graces and virtues as may last the whole year. The Stations of the Cross ought to be made once a week. Our alms ought to be more generous than usual, as it is th spirit of the Church that part of what we save by abstinence should be given to the needy.
The feast of peance! Oh, so bright
With true conversion's heavenly light,
Like sunrise after stormy night!
Full long in sin's dark ways we went,
Yet now our steps are heavenward bent,
And grace is plentiful in Lent.
Antiochus, having made himself master of Jerusalem, raged with all the fury of a tyrant against its miserable inhabitants. Amoungst those who gloriously confessed the true God was Eleazar, one of the chief of the scribes, a man advanced in years, and of a comely countenance, was pressed to open his mouth to eat swine's flesh. But he, choosing rather a most glorious death than a hateful life, went forward voluntarily to the torment. And considering in what manner he was come to it, patiently bearing, he determined not to do any unlawful things for the love of life. But they that stood by, being moved with wicked pity, for the old friendship they had with the man, taking him aside, desired that flesh might be brought, which it was lawful for him to eat, that he might make as if he had eaten, as the king had commanded of the flesh of the sacrifice: That by so doing he might be delivered from death: and for the sake of that old friendship with the man they did him this courtesy. But he began to consider the dignity of his age, and his ancient years, and the inbred honour of his grey beard, and his good life and conversation from a child: and he answered without delay, according to the ordinances of the holy law made by God, saying, that he would rather be sent into the other world. For it doth not become our age, said he, to dissemble: whereby many young persons might think that Eleazar, at the age of fourscore and ten years, was gone over to the life of the heathens: And so they, through my dissimulation, and for a little time of a corruptible life, should be deceived, and hereby I should bring a stain and a curse upon my old age. For though, for the present time, I should be delivered from the punishments of men, yet should I not escape the hand of the Almighty neither alive nor dead. Wherefore by departing manfully out of this life, I shall shew myself worthy of my old age: And I shall leave an example of fortitude to young men, with a ready mind and constancy I suffer an honourable death, for the most venerable and most holy laws. And having spoken thus, he was forthwith carried to execution. And they that led him, and had been a little before more mild, were changed to wrath for the words he had spoken, which they thought were uttered out of arrogancy. But when he was now ready to die with the stripes, he groaned, and said: O Lord, who hast the holy knowledge, thou knowest manifestly that whereas I might be delivered from death, I suffer grievous pains in body: but in soul am well content to suffer these things because I fear thee. Thus did this man die, leaving not only to young men, but also to the whole nation, the memory of his death for an example of virtue and fortitude. (2 Mac. 18-31)
This noble and generous answer was attributed to a stubborn pride by his pretended friends, who thereupon turned their professions of kindness into injuries. Eleazar was forthwith carried to the place of execution, where by a glorious death he left, not to the young men only, but to the whole nation, an example of the most heroic fortitude.