Abstinence, Penitential
The practice of not eating meat or any foods prepared with meat on days the Church observes as days of penitence. According to Canon Law (1249-1253), the universal Church is obligated to abstinance on all Fridays during Lent that are not solemenities, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday. National conferences of bishops have the authority to adapt this universal law for their particular regions. In 1966, the US Bishops determined that only Ash Wednesday, Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday would be obligatory days of fasting and abstinence in the United States. However they asked that the practice continue on all Fridays to commerate the Lord's Passion. They also allowed Catholics to substitute acts of charity and devotion on Fridays outside of Lent.
Material or financial assistance given to a needy person or cause prompted by Christian charity. Discipleship requires giving all that one has to the poor (Mt. 6:24, 19:21; Mk 10:21; Lk 18:22). It is recognized by the Church as one of the principal forms of penance and a corporal work of mercy.
Ash Wednesday
The first day of Lent. On this day, ashes from the burning of the previous year's palms, are blessed and the faithful are signed on the forehead as a reminder of their mortality and a penitential sign of turning away from sin.
A relaxation of Church law granted by the proper authority. It may be permanent or temporary. During Lent, a temporary dispensation for the observance of abstaining from eating meat on a Friday is often granted when St. Patrick's day occurs on a Friday.
One of the three traditional pillars of Lent. It is the practice of limiting the intake of food and water so as to imitate the suffering Christ during his passion. The Church requires fasting, (i.e. two small meals and one larger meal) with no eating between meals on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
A spiritual change that enables a sinner to turn away from sin.
Penance, Sacrament of
One of the seven sacraments of the Church commonly known as confession. It is a sacrament of healing where confessed sins after baptism are absolved by a priest acting in persona Christe.
Penance, Virtue of
The good habit that inclines one to be sorry for his sins, to avoid sin in the future, to atone for sins and to turn completely to God. This virtue leads one to have the proper attitude toward God.
Stations of the Cross
The traditional lenten devotional practice of meditating on the Passion of Christ by reading Sacred Scripture, praying vocally or mentally at the fourteen different stations. Catholic Churches usually have plaques designated for each of the stations to assist those praying this devotion.
St. Joseph Table
An Italian tradition honoring St. Joseph on his feast day of March 19. (Since it falls on a Sunday this year it is celebrated on March 20). A big elaborate buffet is set up in homes or in public squares with the food usually being supplied by the wealthy families for all to enjoy. It is filled not only with an abundance of food but also many religious symbols. Traditionally it has three steps leading up to it representing the ascent from earth to heaven with a statue of St. Joseph or a picture of the Holy Family at the top step. There are vigil lights, palms, lily plants and incense. 
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