From the Rule of the Friars Minor:
Let them fast from the feast of All Saints until the Lord’s Nativity. May those be blessed by the Lord [Latin: benedicti sint a Domino] who fast voluntarily during that holy Lent that begins at the Epiphany and lasts during the forty days which our Lord consecrated by His own fast; but those who do not wish to keep it will not be obliged. Let them fast, however, during the other [Lent] until the Lord’s Resurrection. (III: 5-7)It strikes me that in my years as a Franciscan it has never occurred to me to seek this blessing from the Lord that St. Francis promises to the brothers who observe this other "Lent."
Here's what the Capuchin Constitutions have to say about it:
Christ the Lord, having been sent by his Father and led by the Holy Spirit, fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights.
His disciple, Saint Francis, burning with the desire to imitate the Lord, also spent his life in fasting and prayer.
We, too, therefore, practice fasting, prayer and works of mercy, which lead us to inner freedom and open us to love for God and neighbor.
The season of Advent and, above all, the Lent before Easter, as well as every Friday, are for us times of more intense private and communal penance.
In addition, the “Lent of Benediction”, as it is called, which begins at the Epiphany, and the vigils of the solemnities of Saint Francis and of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary are recommended.
On these days, let us apply ourselves more eagerly to those works which foster conversion: prayer, recollection, listening to the word of God, bodily mortification and communal fasting. In a brotherly spirit, let us share with other poor people that which comes to us from the table of the Lord because of our greater frugality. Let us also perform works of mercy more fervently in keeping with our traditional custom. (111, 1-6)I have decided upon some practices for observing this other "Lent." I hope they are inspired. Looking at the calendar I realize that to make forty days I have to include Sundays (unlike in the season of Lent) in order for my "Lent of Benediction" to conclude before the season of Lent begins. So if I begin the "Lent of Benediction" today (which is the day after Epiphany here in Italy), and include the Sundays, the last day will be February 15. That leaves two days for carnevale before Ash Wednesday on the 18. Thus may I seek the blessing of the Lord!