Having a better understanding of the MEANING of the Lenten practices,
we need to review the MINIMUM practices as outlined by Holy Church.
To emphasize the importance of this time of spiritual house-cleaning and preparation for the rebirth of EASTER, the Church gives example in many ways. The vestments on all weekdays remain purple and only two great feasts break the somber mood: The Feast of St. Joseph, and the Feast of the Annunciation. The readings in the liturgy bring forth the self searching and laments of the saints and prophets. We are called to recognize our sinfulness both corporately and individually, that we might be open to God's healing love. This is our time of wandering in the desert, being stripped of all that is not of God, and participating with peace in that process, that we might joyfully celebrate the "Passover" from the world into the mystical body of Christ. The readings from day to day follow a very ancient schedule for that purpose.
Many local parishes bring back the custom of the Stations of the Cross during this time, to help us consider the great love Jesus Christ has for us, and all that He endured for our sakes. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is more readily available and often there are services for preparation and thanksgiving as a community for the individual celebrations of this sacrament. This Sacrament is so important that we are advised to utilize it more frequently all year, but especially during the seasons of Lent and Easter. (It is NOT a Lenten/Easter requirement, although reception of the Eucharist at least once during this period is, and many need to prayerfully receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation before they are able to "make their Easter duty.")
FASTING and ABSTINENCE, as symbols for the other aspects of penitential works and as good in themselves, and are required during Lent as follows:
All year long we are required to support our local church and are ENCOURAGED to support "works of charity and missionary work" with both our time and our talent - especially during Lent.
*Technically, fasting is to take two small meals which together equal less than one full meal. A full meal is defined as about a quart of food. One may not snack between meals, but may take liquids (including milk and fruit juice, if needed) throughout the day.