Sunday, February 27, 2022
How the Traditional Latin Mass Reinforces Lent as a Fast

It is lamentable that so few Catholics keep the Traditional Lenten fast as practiced by our forefathers in the Faith for centuries. The Traditional Lenten fast - which was greatly watered down since the 1700s - generally constituted the following:

  • Fasting applies for those age 18 or older (but not obligatory for those 60 years of age or older)
  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: If possible, no solid food. Only black coffee, tea, or water.
  • Mondays through Saturdays: Only one meal preferably after sunset or at least until not before 3 PM. A morning frustulum and evening collation (i.e. the two "snacks") are permitted but not required. No meat or animal products are allowed for anyone, regardless of age - that included even fish in the Early Church.
  • Sundays: No meat or animal products allowed. Abstinence remained on Sundays even when fasting did not.
  • Holy Week (except Good Friday which is covered above): Only Bread, Salt, and Herbs are permitted for the main meal. Frustulum and collation permitted (of bread, herbs, and salt) but omitted if possible.
  • Holy Saturday: No food until Noon. Abstinence including from all animal products continues until Easter begins.

While we have happily seen an increase in the number of Traditional Latin Masses offered over the past decade, few Catholics have promoted a return to the fasting that our ancestors knew and practiced religiously. In fact, even the rules in place as of 1962 are substantially harder than what the average Catholic observes today. The laws of fasting and abstinence were as follows, as described in Moral Theology (copyright 1961) by Rev. Heribert Jone and adapted by Rev. Urban Adelman, for the “laws and customs of the United States of America”:

“Complete abstinence is to be observed on all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday, the Vigils of Immaculate Conception and Christmas. Partial abstinence is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the Vigil of Pentecost. Days of fast are all the weekdays of Lent, Ember Days, and the Vigil of Pentecost.”

One highly interesting liturgical facet particular to the season of Lent is that every Lenten feria has its own propers. That is, each day of Lent has its own Introit, Collect, Epistle reading, Gospel reading, Offertory verse, Communion verse, and Post Communion Prayer. Lent further adds a prayer over the people immediately after the Post Communion. Dom Gueranger notes:

"Each feria of Lent has a proper Mass; whereas, in Advent, the Mass of the preceding Sunday is repeated during the week. This richness of the lenten liturgy is a powerful means for our entering into the Church's spirit, since she hereby brings before us, under so many forms, the sentiments suited to this holy time... All this will provide us with most solid instruction; and as the selections from the Bible, which are each day brought before us, are not only some of the finest of the sacred volume, but are, moreover, singularly appropriate to Lent, their attentive perusal will be productive of a twofold advantage."

Now the actual text of the Lenten Masses underscores the importance of the Lenten fast and repeatedly refers to the fasting done by the Faithful at this time. The Church in Her liturgy assumes and expects the Faithful in attendance at the Traditional Latin Mass to at least be keeping the fasting rules in place as of 1962 - if not the more robust fasting practiced before the mitigations of the preceding centuries.

The Preface for instance not only underscores the ongoing 40-day bodily fast but also mentions some of the benefits of this healing remedy:

It is truly meet and just, right and for our salvation, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to Thee, holy Lord, Father almighty, eternal God: Who by this bodily fast dost curb our vices, lift our minds, strength and rewards bestow; through Christ our Lord. Through Whom Angels praise Thy Majesty, Dominations worship, Powers stand in awe. The Heavens and the hosts of heaven with blessed Seraphim unite, exult, and celebrate. And we entreat that Thou wouldst bid our voices too be heard with theirs, singing with lowly praise...

The collect for Ash Wednesday also highlights that day as the beginning of the fast of Lent and not a mere one day fast:

Grant, O Lord, to Thy faithful people, that they may undertake with fitting piety this period of fasting, and complete it with steadfast devotion.

The collect for Friday after Ash Wednesday for instance continues the reference to the Lenten fast:

Further with Thy gracious favor, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the fasts which we have begun: that the bodily observance which we keep, we may be able also to practice with sincere intention. 

And likewise with the collect for Saturday after Ash Wednesday:

O Lord, hearken to our supplications: and grant that we may celebrate with devout service this solemn fast, which Thou hast ordained for the healing both of soul and of body.

In the Mass Propers for the First Sunday of Lent, fasting is referenced in the Epistle while the Gospel reading recounts our Lord's forty days of fasting in the desert. And the collect, while not mentioning fasting, does mention abstinence, as our ancestors regularly kept abstinence even the Sundays of Lent up until the 1800s:

O God, Who dost purify Thy Church by the yearly observance of Lent: grant to Thy household, that what we strive to obtain from Thee by abstinence, we may achieve by good works.

Likewise, in the Divine Office, the ordinary of Lent refers to the bodily fast of Lent. It is a known peculiarity to the traditional Breviary that the ordinary of the Lenten season only begins with First Vespers for the First Sunday in Lent. The first four weekdays of Lent use the ordinary for time throughout the year, a holdover from ancient times before Ash Wednesday was established as the beginning of Lent. 

Starting therefore on the First Sunday of Lent, the prayers of the Breviary further underscore the traditional Lenten fast. In the hymn for Matins for this time, the hymn implores us to keep the Lenten fast. This hymn begins as follows:

The fast, as taught by holy lore, We keep in solemn course once more: The fast to all men known, and bound In forty days of yearly round. 

The law and seers that were of old In diverse ways this Lent foretold, Which Christ, all seasons’ King and Guide, In after ages sanctified. 

More sparing therefore let us make The words we speak, the food we take, Our sleep and mirth, —and closer barred Be every sense in holy guard. 

Avoid the evil thoughts that roll Like waters o’er the heedless soul; Nor let the foe occasion find Our souls in slavery to bind.

The little chapter of Terce taken from Joel 2:12-13 refers to fasting as does the antiphon of Sext: "With the armor of justice let us give ourselves to much patience and fasting." And the same can be seen in the hymn of Vespers which begins as follows:

O kind Creator, bow thine ear 

To mark the cry, to know the tear 

Before thy throne of mercy spent 

In this thy holy fast of Lent.

Turning again to the propers for the Mass, the references to fasting continue repeatedly and include the collect of Monday in the First Week of Lent; the Lesson, Collect, and Gospel for Ember Wednesday in Lent; the collect for Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the Second Week of Lent; the secret prayer for Thursday in the Second Week of Lent; and more. The collect for Friday in the Second Week of Lent for instance prays:

Grant, we beseech Thee, O Almighty God, that cleansed by this holy fast, we may arrive in the right dispositions at the holy feast which is to come.

By the third week of Lent the references continue to refer to the ongoing fast of Lent as expressed for instance in the collect for Monday in the Third Week of Lent:

Pour forth in Thy mercy, O Lord, we beseech Thee, Thy grace into our hearts: that as we abstain from bodily food, so we may also restrain our senses from hurtful excesses.  

The collect two days later on Wednesday asks pardon from God for those who are undertaking "wholesome fasting" who also "abstain from harmful vices."

Abstinence is explicitly mentioned in the collect for Thursday in the First Week of Lent. And temperance - which is strengthened by both fasting and abstinence - is mentioned by name in the collect on Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent. 

The Gradual on Thursday in the Third Week of Lent, which is the exact middle of the Lenten fast, is taken from Psalm 144 and references God providing "meat in due season," which is certainly a reference to the upcoming celebration of the Lord's Resurrection on Easter Sunday when abstinence ends. Hence, by the time Lent reaches its midpoint, the faithful have heard either exhortations or references to fasting in the collects over a dozen times. And it does not end there as the next day's collect on Friday in the Third Week of Lent asks God to "bless our fasts" with His gracious favor as "in body we abstain from food, so we may fast from sin in mind." Similar words occur in the collect for Saturday in the Third Week of Lent.

This is a mere sampling. References to fasting continue. In one more example, the collect for Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent prays:

O God, who through fasting grantest to the just the reward of their merits and to sinners forgiveness: have mercy on Thy clients, that confession of our guilt may enable us to obtain pardon for ours sins.

When Passiontide begins on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, the focus in the Breviary and the Mass shifts from the corporal punishment we bear for our sins to an awareness of the suffering we cause our Lord. But even with this focus change, fasting references do not end as seen in the collect for Monday of Passion Week:

Hallow our fasts, we beseech Thee, O Lord: and mercifully grant us the forgiveness of all our faults.

Consequently, the Church in Her Liturgy through both the propers of the Mass and through the Breviary references and expects the Christian faithful to be observing Lenten fasting and abstinence. These repeated references to the Lenten fast unequivocally illustrate how the Lenten fast should be kept by every one of fasting and/or abstinence age who attends the Tridentine Mass. To attend the Traditional Mass and to keep the watered-down, virtually non-existent fast prescribed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law would be schizophrenic. Keep the Traditional Lenten fast and all traditional fasts. 

And for those looking for ideas on what to make to eat on fasting days, the Lenten Cookbook produced by Sophia Institute Press has a section on vegan recipes that is worth checking out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022
How Catholics Will Stand Up to Big Tech

Guest Post by Kailash, Co-Founder of Fidei

Innovation and Salvation 

The next phase of software products will dramatically enhance the presence of the Catholic Church in our culture. I work in the technology sector and try my best to build innovative technology products. I used to discount the value of this type of work in the light of eternity. What does our work matter if our products are not with us in Heaven? Yes, God wants us to enjoy our work, "find enjoyment in [your] toil — this is the gift of God" (Ecclesiastes 5:19), but we know there is no work in Heaven, "We must work the works of Him who sent me, while it is day; night comes, when no one can work" (John 9:4). How can work and innovation have an important impact if it does not last forever? Recently, I have revisited this question and find myself moving towards the opposite position. Innovation is a critical part of leading souls to salvation and the new frontier of software technology has the power to allow Catholics to create self-sufficiency unlike any time in history and provide a platform for us to reclaim our fallen culture.

Personal Example

I arrived at this position by thinking about my own family history and journey to the Catholic faith. Those of us here in the West, and the United States, in particular, lose track of how social and economic stagnation affects a soul's journey to God. My family is from a region in South India called Tamilnadu. They lived in that region for at least five centuries, likely for many centuries before. There is a city Chennai in this state that holds the martyrdom site of St Thomas the Apostle. A few hundred miles to the south of Chennai in Palayur, Kerala is a church thought to be founded by St Thomas in the year 52AD. Christianity has existed throughout South India from the very start and my family had been exposed to Christianity in some manner for several centuries. Yet none found the true Catholic faith until me. 

My conversion depended on many innovations in order to receive the word of God at the time I was ready. For example, I do not think I could have found the Catholic faith unless I was born in the United States. The innovation of air travel allowed my parents to come to the United States in a palatable manner compared to sea voyages before. I also needed some way to encounter the Catholic faith and learn what its principles and founding implied for my life. The innovation of the internet allowed me to educate myself on the Catholic faith using resources from all over the world and all throughout time precisely when I was ready to know God. The skeptic may reply that I could still have found God without air travel or the internet. While this may be true insofar as God can do anything, the static, pre-industrial society my family lived in for many centuries never worked to draw my ancestors to the Truth. Innovation yielded my salvation.

Innovation Today 

What does the innovation of today mean for the future of the Catholic faith? Much of the innovation produced so far on the internet has centered around content distribution (Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.). As I mentioned before, it has never been easier for a person to read the writings of the Church Fathers or to research the history of Church doctrine on any given issue. It has never been easier for someone to hear from authority on the Catholic Church than it is now. While St. Augustine had to travel to distant lands to finally encounter St Ambrose and eventually convert, we can encounter Blessed Fulton Sheen on-demand in the comfort and privacy of our home. While St. Monica had to worry about her son's salvation from afar in darkness, parents today can help their children stay close to the Truth over the phone in conversation when needed. These are not trivial matters; innovations have a real and measurable impact on the faith of Catholics today.

The next wave of innovation will go much further than the content channels for evangelization and education that helped lead to my conversion. These changes will allow Catholics to reclaim our culture through self-sufficiency in the digital economy. The Catechism says that "everyone has the right of economic initiative [and] everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor" (CCC 2429). For most Catholics in the United States, pursuing economic initiative means using internet-enabled software products. Until recently, this, unfortunately, meant we had to use software products provided by companies whose values were not only anathema to our own but who actively worked to undermine Christian culture. Today, however, this need no longer be the case. There have been developments in technology such as the decreasing cost of cloud computing and the maturation of open-source software that enable Catholics to break our reliance on Big Tech and finally be in business for ourselves in the digital world. 

We are entering a world where our right to economic initiative will include choosing explicitly Catholic companies to provide our basic internet services to communicate and transact online. Just like how generations ago we might choose to patronize a local Catholic baker, today in the Internet age we can choose to utilize a Catholic software provider. This will give consumers the power to use technology products without having to weigh moral compromises and disagreements with the company providing the product they use. No longer will Catholics inconvenience themselves and hide their true beliefs as an artifact of the culture Big Tech has created online and the knowledge these corporations have over our personal preferences and whereabouts. This new world of technology will end our legitimate fears of losing our job or making enemies with large corporations who hold all our personal data.

Instead, self-sufficiency among Catholics will create a platform for us to boldly evangelize in our fallen society. We will move from simply being “tolerated” to “in command” of expressing ourselves. Economic self-sufficiency points to the Benedict Option where Christian people "build intentional communities of counter-cultural witness." The point of self-sufficiency extends beyond providing means for Catholic people to exist in an insular society. Self-sufficiency will allow us to take risks and extend deeper into the darkness of our world that has forgotten about God.

This new phase of innovation will allow us to be leaven to the bread of the world and confidently fight for God for the salvation of all of mankind. Self-sufficiency in the digital world will provide a new foundation to take risks for God because it allows us to live intentionally together as counter-cultural Christians no matter how far away we are from each other. New software will furnish the ability for Catholics to live, communicate, bank, and transact online without moral compromise, without exposure to the great evils found on the Internet today, and without wondering what enemies they will make along the way. These changes will provide the platform for Catholics to boldly evangelize in our fallen culture. Find out how we are starting this trend starting with email at Fidei.

Sunday, February 13, 2022
History of Lenten Fasting: How to Observe the Traditional Lenten Fast

The Purpose of Fasting

In principio, in the beginning, the very first Commandment of God  to Adam and Eve was one of fasting from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Genesis 2:16-17), and their failure to fast brought sin and disorder to all of creation. The second sin of mankind was gluttony. Both are intricately tied to fasting.

Both Elijah and Moses fasted for forty days in the Old Testament before seeing God. Until the Great Flood, man abstained entirely from the flesh meat of animals (cf. Genesis 9:2-3). Likewise, in the New Testament, St. John the Baptist, the greatest prophet (cf. Luke 7:28) fasted and his followers were characterized by their fasting. And our Blessed Lord also fasted for forty days (cf. Matthew 4:1-11) not for His own needs but to serve as an example for us. Our Redeemer said, “Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). Fasting and abstinence from certain foods characterized the lives of man since the foundation of the world.

The Church has hallowed the practice of fasting, encourages it, and mandates it at certain times. Why? The Angelic Doctor writes that fasting is practiced for a threefold purpose: 

“First, in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh…Secondly, we have recourse to fasting in order that the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things: hence it is related of Daniel that he received a revelation from God after fasting for three weeks. Thirdly, in order to satisfy for sins: wherefore it is written: ‘Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning.’ The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon: ‘Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one's flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.’”  

St. Basil the Great also affirmed the importance of fasting for protection against demonic forces: “The fast is the weapon of protection against demons. Our Guardian Angels more really stay with those who have cleansed our souls through fasting.”

The Baltimore Catechism echoes these sentiments: “The Church commands us to fast and abstain, in order that we may mortify our passions and satisfy for our sins” (Baltimore Catechism #2 Q. 395). Concerning this rationale, Fr. Thomas Kinkead in “An Explanation Of The Baltimore Catechism of Christian Doctrine” published in 1891 writes, “Remember it is our bodies that generally lead us into sin; if therefore we punish the body by fasting and mortification, we atone for the sin, and thus God wipes out a part of the temporal punishment due to it.” 

Pope St. Leo the Great in 461 wisely counseled that fasting is a means and not an end in itself. For those who could not observe the strictness of fasting, he sensibly said, "What we forego by fasting is to be given as alms to the poor.”  To simply forgo fasting completely, even when for legitimate health reasons, does not excuse a person from the universal command to do penance (cf. Luke 13:3).

The Lenten Fast in the Early Church

The great liturgical Dom Gueranger writes that the fast which precedes Easter originated with the Apostles themselves:

“The forty days' fast, which we call Lent, is the Church's preparation for Easter, and was instituted at the very commencement of Christianity. Our blessed Lord Himself sanctioned it by fasting forty days and forty nights in the desert; and though He would not impose it on the world by an express commandment (which, in that case, could not have been open to the power of dispensation), yet He showed plainly enough, by His own example, that fasting, which God had so frequently ordered in the old Law, was to be also practiced by the children of the new…The apostles, therefore, legislated for our weakness, by instituting, at the very commencement of the Christian Church, that the solemnity of Easter should be preceded by a universal fast...”

The Catechism of the Liturgy by a Religious of the Sacred Heart published by The Paulist Press, New York, 1919 affirms the apostolic origin of the Lenten fast: “The Lenten fast dates back to Apostolic times as is attested by Saint Jerome, Saint Leo the Great, Saint Cyril of Alexandria and others.” In the 2nd century, St. Irenaeus wrote to Pope St. Victor I inquiring on how Easter should be celebrated, while mentioning the practice of fasting leading up to Easter.

Initially, the Lenten fast was practiced by catechumens preparing for their Baptism with a universal fast for all the faithful observed only during Holy Week, in addition to the weekly fasts that were devotionally practiced. But early on, the baptized Christians began to join the catechumens in fasting on the days immediately preceding Easter.  The duration of the fast varied with some churches observing one day, others several days, and yet others observing intensive 40-hour fasting, in honor of the forty hours that the Lord spent in the sepulcher. By the third and fourth centuries, the fast became forty days in most places. St. Athanasius, in 339 AD, referred to the Lenten fast as a forty-day fast that “the whole world” observed. 

Heortology: A History of the Christian Festivals from their Origin to the Present Day by Dr. K.A. Heinrich Kellner states the following regarding the Lenten fast in the ancient Church, noting the strictness that intensified in Holy Week and even more so on Good Friday and Holy Saturday:

"Among Catholics also abstinence was pushed to great lengths. The canons of Hippolytus prescribe for Holy Week only bread and salt. The Apostolic Constitutions will only permit bread, vegetables, salt and water, in Lent, flesh and wine being forbidden; and, on the last two days of Holy Week, nothing whatsoever is to be eaten. The ascetics, whose acquaintance the Gallic pilgrim made in Jerusalem, never touched bread in Lent, but lived on flour and water. Only a few could keep so strict a fast, and generally speaking people were satisfied with abstaining from flesh and wine. But this lasted throughout the entire Lent, and Chrysostom tells us that in Antioch no flesh was eaten during the whole of Lent. Abstinence from milk and eggs (the so-called lacticinia) was also the general rule."

Shortly after the legislation of Christianity in the Roman Empire, the bishops at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD fixed the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The canons emerging from that council also referenced a 40-day Lenten season of fasting.

To the Early Christians, fasting was performed until sundown, in imitation of the previous Jewish tradition. Dom Gueranger’s writings affirm, “It was the custom with the Jews, in the Old Law, not to take the one meal, allowed on fasting days, till sun-set. The Christian Church adopted the same custom. It was scrupulously practiced, for many centuries, even in our Western countries. But, about the 9th century, some relaxation began to be introduced in the Latin Church.”

And notably in the early Church, fasting also included abstinence from wine, taking man back to the same diet that mankind practiced before God permitted Noah to eat meat and drink wine. As such, in apostolic times, the main meal was a small one, mainly of bread and vegetables. Fish, but not shellfish, became permitted on days of abstinence around the 6th century. Hence, some Eastern Rite Catholics will abstain from meat, animal products, wine, oil, and fish on fasting days which harkens back to these ancient times.

Remarkably, even water was forbidden during fasting times in the very ancient church. Fr. Alban Butler, in Moveable Feasts and Fasts, provides testimony of this when he writes: "St. Fructuosus, the holy bishop of Tarragon in Spain, in the persecution of Valerian in 259, being led to martyrdom on a Friday at ten o'clock in the morning, refused to drink, because it was not the hour to break the fast of the day, though fatigued with imprisonment, and standing in need of strength to sustain the conflict of his last agony. 'It is a fast,' said he: 'I refuse to drink; it is not yet the ninth hour; death itself shall not oblige me to abridge my fast.'"

The Lenten Fast in the Early Middle Ages

The Lenten fast began under the Apostles themselves and was practiced in various forms in the Early Church. As time went on, the fast became uniformly observed under pain of sin. 

St. Augustine in the fourth century remarked, “Our fast at any other time is voluntary; but during Lent, we sin if we do not fast.” At the time of St. Gregory the Great at the beginning of the 7th century, the fast was universally established to begin on what we know as Ash Wednesday. While the name "Ash Wednesday" was not given to the day until Pope Urban II in 1099, the day was known as the “Beginning of the Fast.” 

In 604, in a letter to St. Augustine of Canterbury, Pope St. Gregory the Great announced the form that abstinence would take on fast days. This form would last for almost a thousand years: "We abstain from flesh meat and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs."  When fasting was observed, abstinence was likewise always observed.

Regarding Holy Saturday's fast in particular, Canon 89 of the Council in Trullo in 692 AD provides an account of the piety and devotion of the faithful of that time: “The faithful, spending the days of the Salutatory Passion in fasting, praying and compunction of heart, ought to fast until the midnight of the Great Sabbath: since the divine Evangelists, Matthew and Luke, have shewn us how late at night it was [that the resurrection took place].” That tradition of fasting on Holy Saturday until midnight would last for centuries.

Historical records further indicate that Lent was not a merely regional practice observed only in Rome. It was part of the universality of the Church. Lenten fasting began in England, for instance, sometime during the reign of Earconberht, the king of Kent, who was converted by the missionary work of St. Augustine of Canterbury in England. During the Middle Ages, fasting in England, and many other then-Catholic nations, was required both by Church law and the civil law. Catholic missionaries brought fasting, which is an integral part of the Faith, to every land they visited.

The Lenten fast included fasting from all lacticinia (Latin for milk products) which included butter, cheese, eggs, and animal products. And this abstinence was practiced even on the Sundays of Lent. From this tradition, Easter Eggs were introduced, and therefore the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is when pancakes are traditionally eaten to use leftover lacticinia. And similarly, Fat Tuesday is known as Carnival, coming from the Latin words carne levare – literally the farewell to meat.

Collations Are Introduced on Fasting Days in the 8th Century

The rules on fasting remained largely the same for hundreds of years. Food was to be taken once a day after sunset. After the meal, the fast resumed and was terminated only after the sun had once again set on the horizon. But relaxations were to soon begin. 

By the eighth century, the time for the daily meal was moved to the time that the monks would pray the Office of None in the Divine Office. This office takes place around 3 o'clock in the afternoon. As a consequence of moving the meal up in the day, the practice of a collation was introduced. The well-researched Father Francis Xavier Weiser summarizes this major change with fasting:

"It was not until the ninth century, however, that less rigid laws of fasting were introduced. It came about in 817 when the monks of the Benedictine order, who did much labor in the fields and on the farms, were allowed to take a little drink with a morsel of bread in the evening...Eventually the Church extended the new laws to the laity as well, and by the end of the medieval times they had become universal practice; everybody ate a little evening meal in addition to the main meal at noon." 

The Lenten Fast in the High Middle Ages

Through the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, we can learn how Lent was practiced in his own time and attempt to willingly observe such practices in our own lives. The Lenten fast as mentioned by St. Thomas Aquinas constituted of the following: 
  • Monday through Saturday were days of fasting. The meal was taken at 3 PM and a collation was allowed at night.
  • All meat or animal products were prohibited throughout Lent.
  • Abstinence from these foods remained even on Sundays of Lent, though fasting was not practiced on Sundays. 
  • No food was to be eaten at all on either Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, if possible.
  • Holy Week was a more intense fast that consisted only of bread, salt, water, and herbs. 
The Lenten Fast in the Renissance

By the fourteenth century, the meal had begun to move up steadily until it began to take place even at 12 o’clock. The change became so common it became part of the Church’s discipline. In one interesting but often unknown fact, because the monks would pray the liturgical hour of None before they would eat their meal, the custom of called midday by the name “noon” entered into our vocabulary as a result of the fast. With the meal moved up, the evening collation remained.

In the Middle Ages, abstinence from meat on Fridays and during Lent was not only Church law – it was civil law as well. And people gladly obeyed these laws out of respect for the teaching authority of the Church. Yet after the Protestant revolt which began in 1517 and continued through the middle of the 1600s, this was to change.

English Royalty proclamations, even after Henry VIII's illegal separation from the Church, supporting abstinence of meat continued to occur in England in 1563, 1619, 1625, 1627, and 1631. The same likewise occurred in 1687 under King James II. After the Revolution in 1688 and the overthrow of Catholicism by William III and Mary II, the laws were no longer enforced and officially removed from the law books by the Statue Law Revision Act in 1863. Similar changes occurred throughout Europe as Protestants reviled the fast. 

But changes continued even in Catholic nations. St. Epiphanius (367 - 403 AD), the bishop of Salamis at the end of the 4th century, wrote that "Wednesday and Friday are days of fasting up to the ninth hour because, as Wednesday began the Lord was arrested and on Friday he was crucified." Wednesday abstinence persisted for centuries. In Ireland for instance the use of meat on all Wednesdays of the year was prohibited until around the middle of the 17th century. This harkened back to the vestige of those earlier times when Wednesdays were days of weekly fasting as Father Slater notes in “A Short History of Moral Theology” published in 1909:

"The obligation of fasting on all Wednesdays and Fridays ceased almost entirely about the tenth century, but the fixing of those days by ecclesiastical authority for fasting, and the desire to substitute a Christian observance at Rome for certain pagan rites celebrated in connection with the seasons of the year, seem to have given rise to our Ember Days…About the tenth century the obligation of the Friday fast was reduced to one of abstinence from flesh meat, and the Wednesday fast after being similarly mitigated gradually disappeared altogether."

The Lenten Fast Begins Deteriorating in the 1700s

Some of the most significant changes to fasting would occur under the reign of Pope Benedict XIV who reigned from 1740 – 1758. 

On May 31, 1741, Pope Benedict XIV issued Non Ambiginius which granted permission to eat meat on fasting days while explicitly forbidding the consumption of both fish and flesh meat at the same meal on all fasting days during the year in addition to the Sundays during Lent. Beforehand, the forty days of Lent were held as days of complete abstinence from meat. The concept of partial abstinence was born even though the term would not appear until the 1917 Code of Canon Law. Yet even with these changes, Pope Benedict XIV implored the faithful to return to the devotion of earlier eras:

"The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God's glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe." 

Yet changes continued during the 18th and 19th centuries as Antoine Villien's "History of the Commandments" from 1915 documents:

The use of meat on Sundays [of Lent] was at first tolerated, then expressly permitted, for the greater part of Lent. Old people still remember the time when its use was completely forbidden in France from the Friday of Passion week to Easter. Later, new dispensations allowed the gradual extension of the Sunday privilege to Tuesday and Thursday of each week, up to Thursday before Palm Sunday. About the beginning of the pontification of Pius IX [c. 1846], Monday was added to the days on which abstinence need not be observed; a few years later the use of meat on those four days began to be permitted up to Wednesday of Holy Week. Lastly the Saturdays, expect Ember Saturday and Holy Saturday, were included in the dispensations."

Mitigations to fasting also began to accelerate for other periods in the 18th and 19th centuries and this is seen strikingly in the series of changes to occur to fasting in the American Colonies which can be read in detail in the two-part series: A History of Holy Days of Obligation & Fasting for American Catholics.

Father Anthony Ruff relates in his article "Fasting and Abstinence: The Story" the changes made by Pope Leo XIII in the document entitled Indultum quadragesimale:

"In 1886 Leo XIII allowed meat, eggs, and milk products on Sundays of Lent and at the main meal on every weekday [of Lent] except Wednesday and Friday in the [United States]. Holy Saturday was not included in the dispensation. A small piece of bread was permitted in the morning with coffee, tea, chocolate, or a similar beverage."

While the evening collation had been widespread since the 14th century, the practice of an additional morning snack (i.e. a frustulum) was introduced only around the 18th century as part of the gradual relaxation of discipline. Volume 12 of The Jurist, published by the Catholic University of America in 1952, writes, "It is stated that the two-ounce breakfast arose at the time of St. Alphonsus, since which time the usage of the popular two and eight-ounce standards for the breakfast and the collation, respectively, has been extant." 

Mara Morrow in Sin in the Sixties elaborates on the concessions given by Pope Leo XIII which in the late 19th century expanded the practice of the frustulum and further reduced strict abstinence:

"It also allowed for the use of eggs and milk products at the evening collation daily during Lent and at the principal meal when meat was not allowed. [It] further allowed a small piece of bread in the morning with a beverage, the possibility of taking the principal meal at noon or in the evening, and the use of lard and meat drippings in the preparation of foods. Those exempt from the law of fasting were permitted to eat meat, eggs, and milk more than once a day." 

Consequently, the Baltimore Manual published by the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 states: "Only one full meal is allowed, to be taken about noon or later. Besides this full meal, a collation of eight ounces is allowed. If the full meal is taken about the middle of the day, the collation will naturally be taken in the evening; if the full meal is taken late in the day, the collation may be taken at noon. Besides the full meal and collation, the general custom has made it lawful to take up to two ounces of bread (without butter) and a cup of some warm liquid - as coffee or tea - in the morning. This is important to observe, for by means of this many persons are enabled - and therefore obliged - the keep the fast who could not otherwise do so."

The Catechism of Father Patrick Powers published in Ireland in 1905 mentions that abstinence includes flesh meat and "anything produced from animals, as milk, butter, cheese, eggs." However, Father Patrick notes, "In some countries, however, milk is allowed at collation." The United States was one of those nations whereas Ireland and others were not granted such dispensations. The use of eggs and milk during Lent was to drastically change in a few years with the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

In 1895, the workingmen's privilege gave bishops in the United States the ability to permit meat in some circumstances. Mara Morrow summarizes that these circumstances occurred when there was "difficulty in observing the common law of abstinence, excluding Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, and the Vigil of Christmas. This workingmen's privilege (or indult) allowed only for meat once a day during Lent, taken at the principal meal, and never taken in conjunction with fish. This particular indult was extended not only to the laborer but to his family, as well. The motivation of such an indult was no doubt to allow for enough sustenance such that the many Catholic immigrants to the United States who worked as manual laborers could perform their difficult, energy-demanding physical work without danger to their health" (Sin in the Sixties).

The Remnant of the Lenten Fast Left by the 20th Century

The Catholic Encyclopedia from 1909 in describing that fast immediately before the changes to occur under St. Pius X enumerates them as follows: "In the United States of America all the days of Lent; the Fridays of Advent (generally); the Ember Days; the vigils of Christmas and Pentecost, as well as those (14 Aug.) of the Assumption; (31 Oct.) of All Saints, are now fasting days. In Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and Canada, the days just indicated, together with the Wednesdays of Advent and (28 June) the vigil of Saints Peter and Paul, are fasting days." 

The days of obligatory fasting as listed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law were the forty days of Lent (including Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday until noon); the Ember Days; and the Vigils of Pentecost, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, and Christmas. Partial abstinence, the eating of meat only at the principal meal, was obligatory on all weeks of Lent (Monday through Thursday). And of course, complete abstinence was required on all Fridays, including Fridays of Lent, except when a holy day of obligation fell on a Friday outside of Lent. Saturdays in Lent were likewise days of complete abstinence. Fasting and abstinence were not observed should a vigil fall on a Sunday as stated in the code: "If a vigil that is a fast day falls on a Sunday the fast is not to be anticipated on Saturday, but is dropped altogether that year." Eggs and milk (i.e. lacticinia) became universally permitted.

But additional changes quickly ensued. Mara Morrow, writing on the fasting days around this time, states, "In 1917 Pope Benedict XV granted the faithful of countries in World War I the privilege of transferring Saturday Lenten abstinence to any other day of the week, excepting Friday and Ash Wednesday. In 1919 Cardinal Gibbons was granted his request of transferring Saturday Lenten abstinence to Wednesday for all bishops’ dioceses in the U.S. This permission, as well as the workingmen’s privilege, were frequently renewed, but, after 1931, this permission was only on the basis of personal requests from individual bishops."

Pope Pius XII accelerated the changes to fasting and abstinence as Father Ruff relates: "In 1941 Pope Pius XII allowed bishops worldwide to dispense entirely from fast and abstinence except on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, provided that there was abstinence from meat every Friday, and fast and abstinence on these two days and the vigil of the Assumption and Christmas. Eggs and milk products were permitted at breakfast and in the evening." And effective in 1956 per the decree in Maxima Redemptionis Nostrae Mysteria, Holy Saturday's fast and abstinence were extended from noon to midnight.

By 1962, the laws of fasting and abstinence were as follows as described in "Moral Theology" by Rev. Heribert Jone and adapted by Rev. Urban Adelman for the "laws and customs of the United States of America" copyright 1961: 

"Complete abstinence is to be observed on all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday, the Vigils of Immaculate Conception and Christmas. Partial abstinence is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the Vigil of Pentecost. Days of fast are all the weekdays of Lent, Ember Days, and the Vigil of Pentecost." If a vigil falls on a Sunday, the law of abstinence and fasting is dispensed that year and is not transferred to the preceding day. 

Thus, even before the Second Vatican Council opened, the fasting customs were drastically reduced within only a few hundred years. 

The Lenten Fast Virtually Eliminated Post Vatican II

Shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, Paul VI an apostolic constitution on fasting and abstaining on February 17, 1966, called Paenitemini, whose principles were later incorporated into the 1983 Code of Canon Law. Paenitemini allowed the commutation of the Friday abstinence to an act of penance at the discretion of the local ordinaries and gave authority to the episcopal conferences on how the universal rules would be applied in their region. Abstinence which previously began at age 7 was modified to begin at age 14. Additionally, the obligation of fasting on the Ember Days and on the remaining Vigils was abolished. Paenitemini maintained the traditional practice that "abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation."

The NCCB issued a statement on November 18, 1966. Abstinence was made obligatory on all Fridays of Lent, except Solemnities (i.e. First Class Feasts), on Ash Wednesday, and on Good Friday. Abstinence on all Fridays throughout the year was "especially recommended," and the faithful who did choose to eat meat were directed to perform an alternative penance on those Fridays outside of Lent, even though the US Bishops removed the long-establish precept of requiring Friday penance. The document stated in part: "Even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we ... hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to church law." And finally, fasting on all weekdays of Lent was "strongly recommended" but not made obligatory under penalty of sin.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law largely took Paul VI's apostolic constitution aside from the modification of the age at which fasting binds. Per the 1983 Code of Canon Law, the age of fast was changed to begin at 18 - previously it was 21 - and to still conclude at midnight when an individual completes his 59th birthday. Friday penance is required per these laws on all Fridays of the year except on Solemnities, a dramatic change from the previous exception being only on Holy Days of Obligation.

Per the 1983 Code of Canon Law, fasting and complete abstinence per these rules are required only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The notion of "partial abstinence," introduced under Pope Benedict XIV in 1741, was also removed along with nearly all fast days. 

So What Should Traditional Catholics Do To Restore the Lenten Fast?

While no authority in the Church may change or alter any established dogmas of the Faith, the discipline of both Holy Days of Obligation and fast days may change. The days of obligation and the days of penance are matters of discipline, not matters of dogma. Lawful authorities in the Church do have the power to change these practices.

In the observance of the two precepts, namely attending Holy Mass on prescribed days and fasting and abstaining on commanded days, we obey them because the Church has the power by Christ to command such things. We do not abstain from meat on Fridays for instance because the meat is unclean or evil. It is the act of disobedience that is evil. As Fr. Michael Müller remarks in his Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine from 1874: "It is not the food, but the disobedience that defiles a man." To eat meat on a forbidden day unintentionally, for instance, is no sin. As the Scriptures affirm it is not what goes into one's mouth that defiles a man but that disobedience which comes from the soul (cf. Matthew 15:11).

Yet, even with such a distinction, the Church has historically been wise to change disciplines only very slowly and carefully. As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once remarked, "It is a long-established principle of the Church never to completely drop from her public worship any ceremony, object or prayer which once occupied a place in that worship." The same may be said for matters concerning either Holy Days of Obligation or fast days. What our forefathers held sacred should remain sacred to us in an effort to preserve our catholicity not only with ourselves but with our ancestors who see God now in Heaven.

St. Francis de Sales remarked in the 16th / early 17th century, “If you’re able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church.” 

This Lent, I propose for Traditional Catholics the following Lenten fasting plan:
  • Fasting applies for those age 18 or older (but not obligatory for those 60 years of age or older)
  • Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: No solid food. Only black coffee, tea, or water.
  • Mondays through Saturdays: Only one meal preferably after sunset. A morning frustulum and evening collation are permitted but not required. No meat or animal products are allowed for anyone, regardless of age - that includes fish. No olive oil.
  • Sundays: No meat or animal products allowed except on Laetare Sunday. Exceptions for Palm Sunday are mentioned below.
  • Annunciation Day (March 25) and Palm Sunday: Fish and olive oil permitted.
  • Holy Week (except Good Friday): Only Bread, Salt, and Herbs are permitted for the main meal. Frustulum and collation permitted (of bread, herbs, and salt) but omitted if possible
  • Holy Saturday: No food until Noon. Abstinence including from all animal products continues until Easter begins.
And for those looking for ideas on what to make to eat on fasting days, the Lenten Cookbook produced by Sophia Institute Press has a section on vegan recipes that is worth checking out.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.
Saturday, February 5, 2022
List of Diocesan Patron Saints for Every Diocese in the United States

Who are the patron saints for your Diocese? Do you know if your Diocese has secondary patrons in addition to your primary patron? Did you know that your Diocese's patron saint might not be the same as the Cathedral's titular patron? I was disappointed to find no list online of the various patron saints for each of the Roman Catholic Dioceses in the United States. Since the feastdays of these patrons should be kept as first-class feasts in each diocese, they are important to honor in our prayers at Mass and in the Divine Office in the local churches. In fact, the primary patron saint for each diocese would have been a Holy Day of Obligation up until the time of St. Pius X's changes in 1911. As a result, I sought to create such a list.

The following list details the principal patrons, secondary patrons, and titular patrons for each Diocese. Unfortunately, not all dioceses listed a patron. Some records on sites like were inaccurate. I have attempted to list patrons in the respective categories only if the Diocese's website or historical records mentioned the patron. Unfortunately, there is certainly the possibility of some error, so if you see anything questionable, please contact me to research. I thank those who offered assistance during this research.

It is my hope that through this project Catholics will better honor their diocesan patron(s) by praying the Divine Office in a festive manner on their feastday(s) and hearing Holy Mass on these days. For those who travel often, this list can be a helpful reference for the feastdays of other American Dioceses.

May Our Lord, Our Lady, and all of these holy patrons bring about a resurgence of Christendom and Tradition which always included the proper honoring of Diocesan patrons as well as the honoring of the anniversary of the Diocesan Cathedral.

Download the List by Clicking Here

What is the Difference Between a Patronal Feastday and a Titular Feast?

At other times, in order to show special devotion to some mystery, or to some manifestation of God's love, the church receives a name that will keep that mystery or mark of love always before the people of the parish. Thus churches are sometimes called after the Holy Trinity, the Precious Blood, the Assumption, or, as in our own case here, the church of the Sacred Heart. 

The intention in so naming churches is, in the case of a saint, that the people should have special love for that saint; that they should place themselves under his protection, and, by the study and imitation of his life, make themselves worthy of his intercession before God. That saint, in whose honor the church is named, becomes the patron saint of the place, and his feast is called the patronal feast. But when a church is named in honor of some mystery or mark of divine love or divine object, the people are supposed to have great veneration and love for the mystery, mark or object commemorated by the church's name: and the name of the mystery, mark, or object is called the title of the church, and when the anniversary of the feast comes around, it is called the titular feast.

Source: The Sacred Heart Review published on June 29, 1889


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