Sunday, September 24, 2023
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 32

In today’s episode, on the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, I address the following: 

  1. Upcoming Feastdays this Week
  2. The 3 Unique Styles to Depict St. Jerome in Art
  3. The Customs and Traditions of Michaelmas

This episode is sponsored by offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit today.

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Saturday, September 23, 2023
The Importance and History of Ember Days

The Ancient Institution of Ember Days

Ember days are categorized by three elements: prayers for both thanksgiving and petition, penance in the form of fasting and abstinence, and ordinations. Like Rogation Days, Ember Days developed early in these times, taking the form that would continue for centuries. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

“At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The Liber Pontificalis ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution.” 

By the time of Pope Gregory I, who died in 601 AD, they were observed for all four seasons though the date of each of them could vary. In the Roman Synod of 1078 under Pope Gregory VII, they were uniformly established for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (St. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Pentecost Sunday, and after September 14th (Exaltation of the Cross).

While they were initially observed only in Rome, their observance quickly spread as the Catholic Encyclopedia further adds:

“Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan. The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.” 

Dom Prosper Guéranger adds that the institution of the Ember Days is further based on the fast ordered by God for the changing of the seasons in the Old Testament. Thus, the Church hallowed that fast and adopted it for the worship of the True God thus fulfilling the Lord’s words that He came not to abolish but to complete (cf. Matthew 5:17) what was instituted in the Old Testament:

“We may consider it as one of those practices which the Church took from the Synagogue; for the prophet Zacharias speaks of the fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months. Its introduction into the Christian Church would seem to have been made in the apostolic times; such, at least, is the opinion of St. Leo, of St. Isidore of Seville, of Rabanus Maurus, and of several other ancient Christian writers. It is remarkable, on the other hand, that the orientals do not observe this fast.” 

Spirituality of the Ember Days

The purpose of Ember Days is, in the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia, to “thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy.” As a result, their focus differs from the focus of the Rogation Days to which they are often compared. An article on explains the separate, specific focus of Rogation Days as such:

“Rogation Days are the four days set apart to bless the fields and invoke God's mercy on all of creation. The 4 days are April 25, which is called the Major Rogation (and is only coincidentally the same day as the Feast of St. Mark); and the three days preceding Ascension Thursday, which are called the Minor Rogations. Traditionally, on these days, the congregation marches the boundaries of the parish, blessing every tree and stone, while chanting or reciting a Litany of Mercy, usually a Litany of the Saints.” 

In addition to the general purpose of thanking God and invoking His blessings, the author of Barefoot Abbey provides specific intentions for each of the Ember Days by season so that we can render thanks to Almighty God for the fruits of the earth which specifically become instruments of His grace through the Sacraments:

Winter or Advent Ember Days are after the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13th): Give thanks for the olives that make holy oils for Unction. Spring or Lenten Ember Days are after Ash Wednesday: Give thanks for the flowers and bees that make blessed candles as in for Baptism and upon the alter. Summer or Whit Ember Days are after the Solemnity of Pentecost: Give thanks for the wheat used to make the Eucharist hosts. Autumn or Michaelmas Ember Days are after the Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14): Give thanks for the grapes that make wine for the Precious Blood of Christ.  

By writing these down and recalling them for the Ember Days of each season, we can be more intentional in what we are thanking God for in any given season. In this respect, the Ember Days further distinguish themselves from the Rogation Days.

The Cultural Impact of the Ember Days to Japan

Ember Days would remain obligatory for the faithful until the changes immediately after Vatican II in the mid-1960s. In fact, their observance has led to several long-term cultural implications. For instance, Ember Days are the reason we have “tempura” dishes in Asian cuisine. For instance, shrimp tempura is based on Ember Days, which are known as quatuor tempora in Latin.

Portuguese (and Spanish) missionaries to the Far East would invite the converted Japanese to fast during the quator tempora by eating a dish that consisted of battered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables called “Peixinhos da Horta” in Portuguese which literally translated to “little fishes from the garden.” It is a dish consisting of bell peppers, squash, and green beans that is fried into a flour-based batter. The term steadily gained popularity in southern Japan and became widely used to refer to any sort of food prepared using hot oil, battered or not. This term would persist even after Catholicism was outlawed by the Japanese and the Church’s missionaries were executed or exiled in the late 1500s. It was not until the 1870s that Christianity legally returned to Japan. But the faithful of Japan continued to keep the Faith alive in their families, including through the keeping of fast and abstinence days.

Ember Days Are Always on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays

Ember Days are observed on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in keeping with the ancient weekly devotional fast that originated with the Apostles. On the rationale for fasting on these days, St. Peter of Alexandria, Patriarch of Alexandria until his death in 311 AD, explains: “On Wednesday because on this day the council of the Jews was gathered to betray our Lord; on Friday because on this day He suffered death for our salvation.” Likewise, the 1875 Catechism of Father Michael Müller adds: “This practice began with Christianity itself, as we learn from St. Epiphanius, who says: ‘It is ordained, by the law of the Apostles, to fast two days of the week.’” Some places added Saturday fasting as well, as noted by St. Francis de Sales who writes, “The early Christians selected Wednesday, Friday and Saturday as days of abstinence.” 

Father Slater notes in “A Short History of Moral Theology” published in 1909 how these weekly devotional fasts gradually ended but were retained for the Ember Days:

“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.” 

Ember Days in the Early 1900s

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 weekdays 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.”

Canon 1006 of the 1917 Code further stated men were to be ordained only on Ember Saturdays, Holy Saturday and the Saturday before Passion Sunday, but the Code added “if a serious cause intervenes, the bishop can have them even on any Sunday or feast day of the order.” Episcopal consecration was reserved for Sundays and for Feasts of the Apostles. Thus, even the 1917 Code kept the ancient practice of holding Ember Days as privileged days for ordinations. 

Many changes though would continue through the 20th century. In one such change, on January 28, 1949, the United States bishops issued modified regulations on abstinence in America again after receiving a ruling from the Sacred Congregation of the Council. Partial abstinence replaced complete abstinence for Ember Wednesdays, Ember Saturdays, and the Vigil of Pentecost. Previously, all Ember Days were days of complete abstinence.

Changes to Ember Days in the Early 1960s

By 1962, the laws of fasting and abstinence were as follows as described in Moral Theology by Father Heribert Jone and adapted by Father 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.” 

1960 also saw a change to the calculation of how the autumnal Ember Days can follow as the Barefoot Abbey website explains:

“Autumn Ember Days are unique in their scheduling. With the 1960 revisions to the breviary rubrics and the newly instituted system of counting Sundays from August to December, Pope John XXIII added that the September Ember Days should not only follow the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross as they had historically done, but also fall after the 3rd Sunday of September.” 

Gregory DiPippo explains in more detail how the counting of Sundays changed at this time:

“The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying antiphons and responsories; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century...The 'first Sunday' of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month… In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of the months from August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month.” 

Thus, not only did fasting change before Vatican II but the possible dates of the Ember Days were changed as well.

The Abandonment of Our Heritage

Shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI issued 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 seven was modified to begin at age fourteen. Additionally, the obligation of fasting on the Ember Days and on the remaining vigils was abolished.

Father Lew, commenting on the post-conciliar changes, admonishes priests accordingly:

“True, modern canon law is silent about the Ember Days. But tucked away in an obscure corner of the 1970 missal is a reference to ‘the Four Times, in which the Church is accustomed to pray to our Lord for the various needs of men, especially for the fruits of the earth and human labours, and to give him public thanks’ (Normæ Universales de Anno Liturgico, 45). The same words remain in the 3rd editio typica of this missal, published in 2002. However, the ‘adaptation’ of these days is left to Bishops’ Conferences: they can decide how many are to be observed, and when, and with what prayers. A couple of ‘fast days’ are duly marked on each year’s Ordo for the church in England and Wales, one in Lent and one in October, with the suggestion of celebrating a votive Mass of a suitable kind. Surely so ancient a tradition as the Ember Days must not be allowed to fade away.” 

May we all return to the practice and observance of the Ember Days for the glory of God and for reparation for sin. Offering up our fasts for vocations and for the priests who are ordained on – or around the Ember Days – would be a meritorious and charitable work we can do. And we can spend more time learning about this part of our heritage. Like Ember Days, so much of our history of fasting and abstinence has been forgotten.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.

Sunday, September 17, 2023
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 31

In today’s episode, on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, I address the following: 

  1. The Importance, History, and Means to Preserve Ember Days

I would like to thank for sponsoring this episode., the leader in online Catholic catechism classes, has everything from online K-12 programs, RCIA classes, adult continuing education, marriage preparation, baptism preparation, confirmation prep, quince prep classes, catechist training courses, and more. It is never too late to study the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and is the gold standard in authentic Catholic formation online.

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Thursday, September 14, 2023
What Liquids Are Permitted on Fasting Days?

Liquids Permitted on Fasting Days

Around the 14th century water and other liquids become widely permitted to all classes of persons – not just monastics – outside the meal on fast days. This had been so widely known and taught that the 1917 Code did not even comment on the use of liquids on days of fast. In commenting on the Church’s law, Father Jone notes that while liquids do not violate the fast, this adage concerns liquids understood in the proper sense and not quasi-food items like milk shakes. In a similar vein, juices made from puree or pureed food would violate the fast:

"...liquids, including milk and fruit juices, are allowed. The usual amount of cream in coffee or tea is permitted. Milk is understood as ordinary or homogenized, but does not include such combinations as malted milk or milk shakes. However combinations based on skimmed milk and coloring or special flavoring such as chocolate milk are rather a drink than a food and, therefore, permissible." 

Father Prümmer states the same with some additional language worth nothing:

"There is a common saying that drinks do not break the fast, but only those things are to be classified as liquids which normally aid the digestion of food: therefore any drink which has a notable nutritive value cannot be regarded as pure liquid, such as milk, chocolate made with milk. But wine, beer, coffee and tea are permissible." 

Antoine Villien in "A History of the Commandments of the Church" published in 1915 provides a history of the origin of the frustulum and the collation while noting that the distinction in liquids of simple liquids from others that would break the fast, showing that this distinction stretches back to at least the Middle Ages:

“To allow the meal to be taken at noon was to render it possible to work harder in the afternoon but then the fatigued body required some refreshment at night. A little liquid to quench the thirst was at first permitted for it was held that liquids did not break the fast. The Church refrains from forbidding liquids because their primary function is to relieve thirst and aid digestion rather than to nourish although, as St Thomas admits, liquids do give some nourishment. However, the liquids in common use, water and wine, do not always suffice; they are not even an aid to digestion for everybody. Since there are other liquids more beneficial to digestion and better able to quench thirst, e.g., the electuaria, viz. more or less liquid jellies, preserves, candied fruit; could not these electuaria replace water and wine? St Thomas thought that it was just as lawful to take them as to take any other medicine provided only that they be not taken in large quantities or as a food. The permissible quantity was not specified and it devolved upon custom to determine it. Quantity like custom naturally varied in different localities. In the monasteries where everything was better regulated this little lunch consisting of fruit herbs bread water or wine was taken in common, while the Collationes of Cassian were read; hence the name collation was given it and an effort was made so to limit the repast that it might never be equivalent to a full meal. Thus, the essence of the fast was saved.

“The collation was for the night. But in the morning also the weakened stomach felt the need of some relief. Since liquid did not break the fast it could not be forbidden. Neither did the electuaria break the fast as we have seen above provided they were not taken in too great a quantity or per modum cibi; hence they were likewise permitted. Water, wine, coffee were simple liquids; hot chocolate without milk was placed in the class of the electuaria: all were tolerated. A little bread is sometimes necessary with wine or coffee ne potus noceat, so as not to inconvenience delicate stomachs; hence it likewise was permitted and thus originated the morsel of food commonly called frustulum. So it was still true that only a single meal was taken.” 

Hence, in the context of fasting, liquids do not only refer to what is drunk. They also refer to beverages meant to aid in digestion and which offer no real nutritional value (i.e., no or virtually no calories).

Is Chocolate a Liquid or a Solid?

The discovery of the New World also brought with it questions directly impacting what may or may not be consumed on days of fasting and one of the most significant of those concerned a newly discovered substance – chocolate. Was chocolate a liquid or a solid? Could someone consume it on a day of fasting at any time since it is a liquid when heated and left at room temperature? The Economics of Chocolate describes this interesting history:

“The first fight over the definition of ‘chocolate’ was within the Catholic Church. After the Spanish conquest of America, chocolate was imported to Europe and consumed as a beverage. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Catholic countries such as Spain, France, or Italy, the issue of whether or not it was permitted to drink chocolate during Christian fasting periods…arose. Christian fasting implied that flesh is ‘mortified,’ therefore more ‘nourishing’ substances couldn’t be taken. If chocolate was a drink, it did not break the fast, but if it was a food, then it could not be consumed during Christian fasting periods…

“Catholic scholars debated the issue. Juan de Cardenas (1591-1913) and Nicephoro Sebasto Melisseno (1665) argued that chocolate could not be consumed during the fast because of the addition of butter. Antonio de Escobar y Mendoza (1626), Antonio de Leon Pinelo (1636), and Tomas Hurtado (1645) had a different opinion. According to them, it depended if (and how much) nourishing substances were added to the chocolate. If mixed with water it became a drink and was thus permitted (as was wine), but if mixed with other substances (as milk, eggs, and dry bread) it become a food and, therefore, was forbidden. Cardinal Francesco Mario Brancaccio (1664) also argued if the water component prevailed over the cocoa component, then chocolate did not break the fast…

“Several popes were asked to settle the dispute as leaders of the Catholic Church. According to Coe and Coe (2013), Popes Gregory XIII, Clement VII, Paul V, Pius V, Urban VIII, Clement XI, and Benedict XIV all agreed in private that chocolate did not break the fast. However, there was never an official Papal statement to end the debate.” 

Peter Dens in A Synopsis of the Moral Theology states a similar position from the Church at that time in a more succinct manner:

“Does the taking of chocolate break an ecclesiastical fast? It is certain, with the consent of all, that to eat chocolate undiluted breaks the fast; because it is food, and is taken by way of food. The question is concerning the drinking of chocolate; to wit, when chocolate, mixed with water and diluted and boiled, is drunk, or rather, is sucked. Cozza and La Croix propose this as a question controverted by their patrons on both sides, whom they cite. Benedict XIV, the Supreme Pontiff, has published a lucid dissertation upon this question, who, however, resolves that it is more safe to abstain from chocolate on a fast day; and to him we adhere with Billuart. The reason is, because such a potion in itself, and more especially serves for nourishment, and not properly cooling, or for quenching thirst; for it is a kind of hot concoction. This is confirmed from the fact that by this potion weak persons are nourished." 

To a serious Catholic, what was and was not permitted on a day of fasting was worth careful consideration. 

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.

Monday, September 11, 2023
Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe to Defeat the Pro-abortionists in Mexico and Latin America

After the horrific decision to see the legalization of abortion in Mexico, join me in daily praying for the swift defeat of these anti-Catholic and pro-abortion zealots who send unbaptized souls to Hell by their actions.

O Holy Mary, Virgin Mother of God, who as Our Lady of Guadalupe didst aid in the conversion of Mexico from paganism in a most miraculous way, we now beseech thee to bring about in these our times the early conversion of our modern world from its present neo-paganism to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of thy divine Son, Jesus Christ, starting in the Americas and extending throughout the entire world, so that soon there may be truly “one fold and one shepherd”, with all governments recognizing the reign of they Son, Jesus Christ the King. This we ask of the Eternal Father, through Jesus Christ His Son Our Lord and by thy powerful intercession – all for the salvation of souls, the triumph of the Church and peace in the world. Amen.

Source: Angelus Press 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, page 1794

Sunday, September 10, 2023
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 30

In today’s episode, on the 15th Sunday after Pentecost, I address the following: 

  1. When the Obligation for Attending Holy Mass Begins
  2. Indulgences for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
  3. Upcoming Feastdays this Week

This episode is sponsored by offers Latin prayer cards to learn and share prayers in the sacred language. Learn your basic prayers in Latin conveniently on the go. Practice your pronunciation with easy-to-follow English phonetic renderings of Latin words. offers prayer cards in various formats, including Latin-English rosary pamphlets with the traditional 15 mysteries. Shop for additional Latin resources like missal booklets, server response cards, and more. Visit today.

Subscribe to the podcast on Buzzsprout, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, I-tunes, and many other platforms!

Thursday, September 7, 2023
New A Catholic Life Patreon Shop Launched!


I'm happy to announce the launch of the new A Catholic Life Patreon Shop. You can now order the various ICS calendar files that I create each year for those seeking to restore the ancient fasting and abstinence disciplines.

I will soon be adding PDFs to all of my books as well for purchase on the storefront. Do note that if you are a patron of mine already, depending on your tier, you may have access to some of this content automatically without charge (if it is a benefit for your particular tier). If not, you are welcome to order it.

Also, most importantly, anyone can order from the Patreon shop - you do not need to be my patron to do so. So please share the link with anyone that might benefit from it!

Sunday, September 3, 2023
A Catholic Life Podcast: Episode 29

In today’s episode, on the 14th Sunday after Pentecost, I address the following: 

  1. Upcoming Feastdays this Week
  2. Customs for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  3. The Magisterial Weight of Various Papal Documents

This episode is sponsored by Meaning of Catholic. I would like to thank Meaning of Catholic for sponsoring this episode. Meaning of Catholic has just launched its online store offering PDF copies of “The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence” (in 3 languages), “The Roman Catechism Explained for the Modern World,” and a few other great books to add to your library by authors like Timothy Flanders and Kennedy Hall. Please visit to check them out today.

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