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Saturday, February 25, 2006
Fasting and Abstinence

Lent begins this Wednesday, so I wanted to begin my long line of posts dedicated to this time of Christian penance.

Ash Wednesday: This is a day of mandatory abstinence and fasting (Can. 1251). All Catholics aged 14 or older must abstain from meat on this day (Can. 1252). Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.

However, those between 18 and 59 years of age (Can. 1252), are also bound to fast on Ash Wednesday. On this day one, normal-sized meal and two smaller meals that do not equal the normal meal are allowed. Eating between meals, however, is prohibited although fruit juices and milk are allowed. These rules are much more lenient than centuries past. If you can, truly make your fasting a sacrifice.

Good Friday: This day is the most somber day in the year when we recall Our Savior's death. The rules for Ash Wednesday apply to today (Can. 1251).

The Fridays of Lent: All the Fridays of Lent excluding Good Friday are mandatory days of abstinence from meat (Can. 1250). The abstinence rules outlined under Ash Wednesday apply to today. However, a person may still choose to voluntary fast today. Fasting is to be encouraged, though not mandatory, each Friday of Lent. Traditional Catholics will abtain and fast on both the Fridays and Saturdays of Lent.

All days of Lent but Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and 1st Class Feasts: Traditional Catholics will still fast and partially abtain from meat on these days. By partial abstinence, a person is allowed to eat meat only at the major meal.

All Fridays of the Year: All Catholics must abstain from meat all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent (Can. 1250 & Can. 1251). However, Catholics can do another form of penance on the Fridays of the year instead of abstaining. Fridays in Lent, though, are mandatory abstinence and another act of penance does not void the necessity to abstain from meat and meat products. Traditional Catholics will always abstain on each Friday of the year, though. Above all, some form of penance is required. Failure to perform penance is sinful.

Pre-Vatican II Fasting: For information on fasting before Vatican II, see Fish Eaters. It is always a good, pious practice to voluntarily fast and abstain on days that used to be required for fasting and abstaining like Holy Saturday, Christmas Eve, and the Vigil of Pentecost. Also, fasting and abstinence were required on Rogation Days and Ember Days.


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