Showing posts with label Fasting and Abstinence. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fasting and Abstinence. Show all posts
Friday, June 26, 2020
Fast & Abstinence on the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul

Commemoration (1954 Calendar): June 28

The Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul, like the vigils of the other apostles which used to be days of fasting and preparation, has fallen by the wayside after the changes to the Church's liturgical life even before Vatican II. This particular day of fasting is one of the few remnants of the Apostles Fast, which was instituted by Pope St. Leo the Great in 461.

Part of the reason for preparation was on account of the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul being a Universal Holy Day of Obligation in many places. In fact, all of the feasts of the Apostles were Holy Days of Obligation on the Universal Calendar from 932 AD to 1911. However, most localities did not observe all of these feastdays as Holy Days. The Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul was the most commonly observed Holy Day among the feasts of the apostles.

At the time of America's formation, the holydays of obligation, in addition to every Sunday, were as follows for the new country: the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Ss. Peter and Paul, Assumption, and All Saints. The fasting days were the Ember Days of each of the seasons; the forty days Lent; Wednesdays and Fridays in Advent; and the vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, Ss Peter and Paul, and All Saints. Notice, the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul as well as the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul on the list.

The Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul ceased being a fast day in America by 1842. It was not until 1885 under Pope Leo XIII that Ss. Peter and Paul ceased being a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States. Yet it remained as a Holy Day in many other places. Even after the significant changes made by Pope St. Pius X to the list of Holy Days in 1911, Ss. Peter and Paul remained a Holy Day of Obligation in the Universal Church, though it was not reestablished as such in the United States: "Where, however, any of the above feasts has been abolished or transferred, the new legislation is not effective. In the United States consequently the Epiphany and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul are not days of precept" (Catholic Encyclopedia).

In Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and Canada the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul remained a day of fasting and abstinence up until the 1917 Code of Canon law. In 1902, the Holy Father granted a special dispensation for Catholics in England from fasting on the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul in honor of the coronation of King Edward VII, illustrating historical proof of its observance in the early part of the 20th century.

Per the 1917 Code, 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." However, beforehand, the fast was observed to the Saturday previous. As a result, in years when the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul (June 28th) falls on a Sunday, we can observe the fast and abstinence on Satuday. Other years, we can voluntarily observe June 28th as a day of fasting and abstinence to prepare for the Feast in honor of Ss. Peter and Paul.

The wisdom of Dom Gueranger, written in the late 1800s, can apply to us even today:
Let us, then, recollect ourselves, preparing our hearts in union with holy Church, by faithfully observing this vigil.  When the obligation of thus keeping up certain days of preparation previous to the festivals is strictly maintained by a people, it is a sign that Faith is still living amongst them; it proves that they understand the greatness of that which the holy liturgy proposes to their homage.  Christians in the West, we who make the glory of Saints Peter and Paul our boast, let us remember the Lent in honour of the Apostles begun by Greek schismatics on the close of the Paschal solemnities, and continued up to this day.  The contrast between them and ourselves will be of a nature to stir softness and ingratitude hold too large a share.  If certain concessions have, for grave reasons, been reluctantly made by the Church, so that the fast of this vigil is not longer observed, let us see therein a double motive for holding fast to her precious Tradition.  Let us make up by fervor, thanksgiving and love, for the severity lacking in our observance, which is yet still maintained by so many Churches notwithstanding their schismatic separation from Rome.
While the Vigils of the other Apostles were removed by Pope Pius XII in 1955, the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul remained and is preserved in the 1962 Missal. At the time of the formation of the Tridentine Calendar, the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul was commemorated on June 28th as it fell on the Feast of St. Leo II. In 1921, the Feast of St. Leo II was moved to July 3rd, and St. Irenaeus was added to the Universal Calendar on June 28th; the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul remained commemorated. However, in 1960, St. Irenaeus was moved to July 3rd, and St. Leo II disappeared from the Calendar to free up the 28th entirely for the Vigil. Sadly, the vigil disappeared altogether in the Novus Ordo 1969 Calendar. Therefore, how the Vigil is celebrated or commemorated on June 28th will depend on the year of the Missal. You can read more about the liturgical feasts on June 28th at the New Liturgical Movement.


O Almighty God, let no disturbance upset us, for You have established us upon the rock of Your apostles. Through our Lord . . .
Monday, June 8, 2020
The Apostles Fast

The observance of a fast leading up to the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul originated in the Early Church under Pope St. Leo the Great around the year 461 and is attested to in his sermons. At the time of St. Jerome, it was known as “Summer Lent,” though it was not practiced under obligation like the fast of Lent itself. While it subsequently fell out of observance in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Catholic Church still observes this fast to some extent.

The Roman Catholic Church though maintained the summer Ember Days during this time, in addition to the traditional fast on the Vigil of Sts. Peter and Paul, until modern times. The Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul was kept as a fast day until 1917. As a result, only a fragment of the fasting that was originally practiced persisted in the Roman Rite.

Fr. R. Janin summarizes the Traditional Byzantine Fast and Abstinence observance for the Apostles Fast:
This varies from 9 to 42 days depending on the feast of Easter. It begins on the first Monday after Pentecost until the feast of Saints Peter and Paul. This Lent has the same rules as Great Lent but oil and fish are tolerated (in some places) except on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Now that we have completed the Octave of Pentecost, we could continue our Ember Day fasts through the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul as voluntary penance in order to better prepare for the great feast of Ss. Peter and Paul. We often forget that this is a Holy Day of Obligation on the Universal Calendar and it was observed as a Holy Day of Obligation in America up until 1885. Only by adequately preparing for this feastday can we appreciate the importance of this and all of the feasts of the Apostles.

Let us pray:

Preserve us, O Lord, we beseech thee, from all dangers of soul and body: and by the intercession of the glorious and blessed Mary, the ever Virgin-Mother of God, of blessed Joseph, of thy blessed apostles Peter and Paul and of all the saints, grant us, in thy mercy, health and peace; that all adversities and errors being removed, thy Church may serve thee with undisturbed liberty.
Wednesday, June 3, 2020
A History of Holy Days of Obligation & Fasting for American Catholics: Part 2

Archbishop John Carroll, the first Bishop in the United States

Holy Days in Early America:

At America's birth, the holydays of obligation, in addition to every Sunday, were as follows: the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Ss. Peter and Paul, Assumption, and All Saints. The fasting days were the Ember Days of each of the seasons; the forty days Lent; Wednesdays and Fridays in Advent; and the vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, Ss Peter and Paul, and All Saints.

After the American Revolution, the Catholics in the 13 colonies that constituted the new United States of America were under the jurisdiction of the Apostolic Vicariate of the London District until the Diocese of Baltimore was established on November 6, 1789. This included the area of Maine that previously had been part of Quebec.

The history of holy days in the lands purchased in 1803 from France in the Louisiana Purchase is also interesting. Owing to the persecution of Catholics in France after the French Revolution, Pope Pius VII on April 5, 1802, reduced the holy days of obligation for Catholics in France to only Christmas, Ascension, Assumption, and the Feast of All Saints.

Spain, which was in possession of the Louisiana territory since 1763, agreed in 1801 to cede it back to Napoleon. Before even getting possession of the territory, he sold it to the United States in 1803. What is particularly interesting is that the Catholics of Louisiana - whose territory includes areas in modern-day Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Nebraska - adopted the reduced holy days granted to France in 1802.

A Divergence of Holy Days in the 1800s:

As America expanded, there was a divergence in the days of precept. When Florida was purchased by the United States in 1821, its old holy days were maintained. And the same likewise occurred of the Texas territory when it was acquired by the United States in 1845. And this trend continued as America expanded westward. As the American Catholic Quarterly Review, Volume 11 observes:
"In the Second Plenary Council [of Baltimore] in 1866 the feast of the Immaculate Conception was made of obligation as it had been in Oregon, where the feast of St Peter and St Paul had retained its place with the Monday after Easter and Whit Sunday, St John the Baptist, Candlemas, and St Stephen. Pope Gregory XVI in 1837 dispensed all the dioceses then in the United States from the obligation as to Easter Monday and Whitsun Monday and in 1840 from that of the feast of St Peter and St Paul and the same Sovereign Pontiff relieved the faithful from the fast on Wednesdays in Advent."
Uniformity of American Holy Days Established in 1885:

By the time of the Civil War, considerable changes had occurred to these holy days. It was not until the Third Plenary Council that uniformly was achieved, though at the cost of reducing the holy days observed by many Catholics in the New World. Quoting the same article:
"The effort to induce faithful to a more exact observance of holydays of obligation or least so far as hearing mass was concerned had not been successful. A general indifference prevailed. When zealous priests to give servants and mechanics every opportunity to fulfil the obligation Mass celebrated at an early hour to permit them to attend it proceeding to their usual work, it was found that almost the persons to avail themselves of the opportunity would be a pious old women while those of the very class for whose the Mass was thus offered were scarcely represented by a straggling individuals. 
"The Fathers of the Council renewed their petition to the See and His Holiness Pope Leo XIII on the 31st of December 1885 transferred the solemnization of Corpus Christi to the Sunday following the feast and made the holydays of obligation in all of the United States to be thenceforward: The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, Christmas Day, the feast of Circumcision, Ascension Day, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, and the feast of All Saints."
Sts. Peter and Paul was no longer a Holy Day of Obligation in the United States.

American Fasting & Abstinence Wanes in the Mid 1800s:

As Holy Days were reduced, so were fasting days. The Third Provincial Council of Baltimore in 1837, with approval of Pope Gregory XVI, dispensed from fast and abstinence the Wednesdays of Advent, except for the Ember Wednesday in Advent.

At this time, complete abstinence was observed on all Saturdays of the year too but over the course of the 19th century, the dispensations from Saturday abstinence became universal. Mara Morrow, author of Sin in the Sixties, illustrates these changes:
"In 1840 the Fourth Provinicial Council of Baltimore asked for a perpetual renewal of an indult dispensing from abstinence on Saturdays, and this indult was renewed for twenty years by Pope Gregory XVI. In 1866, the Second Plenary Council asked that all dispensations granted to the diocese of Baltimore be extended to other American dioceses, but Pope Pius IX preferred individual requests from each bishop in the United States. In 1884, the U.S. bishops who were meeting at the Third Plenary Council decided it would be difficult to pass uniform legislation on the subject of fast and abstinence and hence left it to the authority of provincial councils to determine what was best for their territories. Leo XIII in 1886 granted U.S. bishops the authority to dispense each year from abstinence on Saturdays."
Similarly, Pope Gregory XVI in a rescript from June 28, 1831, granted a dispensation to all Catholics of Scotland from abstinence on Saturdays throughout the year, except on Saturdays that were also days of fasting. Dispensations were granted in many nations, illustrating a weakening in discipline not only in America.

With the growing number of Irish immigrants to America in the early 1800s, special attention was given to dispense from the law of abstinence when St. Patricks' Day fell on a Friday. This was done for the members of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1837 and would become customary in the United States.

Pope Leo XIII Continues the Relaxation of Discipline:

Throughout the centuries covered thus far, abstinence included not only abstinence from meat but also generally from eggs and dairy products, though exceptions were granted in various localities." Father Weiser in "Christian Feasts and Customs" clarifies: "Abstinence from lacticinia (milk foods), which included milk, butter, cheese, and eggs, was never strictly enforced in Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia because of the lack of oil and other substitute foods in those countries. The Church using common sense granted many dispensations in this matter in all countries of Europe. People who did eat the milk foods would often, when they could afford it, give alms for the building of churches or other pious endeavors."

The laws of abstinence also required abstinence from fish at the meals where meat was eaten on a fast day as well as on Sundays in Lent, as Pope Benedict XIV decreed. This too began to change. 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."
Fasting days were defined as days of one meal only until 817 AD when the monks of the Benedictine Order were granted permission to take a little drink and bread in the evening on account of the labors they performed. The practice of an evening collation on fasting days for all of the faithful was universal by the 14th century. The practice of an additional morning collation was introduced only in the 19th century as part of the gradual relaxation of discipline. Morrow in Sin in the Sixties expands on the concessions given by Leo XIII:
"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.

On November 30, 1879, Pope Leo XIII added the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception to the Universal Church's calendar, increasing the number of liturgical vigils from 16 to 17, which not including Holy Saturday, consisted of "the eves of Christmas, the Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the eight feasts of the Apostles, St. John the Baptist, St. Laurence, and All Saints." At this time, the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception was not yet a fast day. These 17 vigils mentioned were still in place at the time of the writing of the Catholic Encyclopedia in 1909.

In 1895, the workingmen's privilege gave bishops in the United States the ability to permit meat in some circumstances where 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 Changes of St. Pius X to Holy Days of Obligation:

In the largest change to Holy Days in centuries, Pope St. Pius X in Supremi disciplinæ in 1911 drastically reduced the number of Holy Days of Obligation in the Universal Church to 8:
  1. Christmas
  2. Circumcision
  3. Epiphany 
  4. Ascension
  5. Immaculate Conception
  6. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
  7. Sts. Peter and Paul 
  8. All Saints 
In only 269 years, the number of Holy Days on the Universal Calendar had been reduced from 36 under Urban VIII to 8 under Pius X. Shortly thereafter in 1917, Corpus Christi and St. Joseph were added back, bringing the total to 10. The 10 currently observed on the Universal Calendar are the same as from 1917.

As for the Holy Days observed in the United States, the Catholic Encyclopedia in referencing Supremi disciplinæ noted, "Where, however, any of the above feasts has been abolished or transferred, the new legislation is not effective. In the United States consequently the Epiphany and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul are not days of precept." On a similar note, Corpus Christi when added back as a Holy Day in the Universal Church in 1917 remained transferred to the following Sunday in the United States as a result of Pope Leo XIII's indult from 1885.

James Cardinal Gibbons

The Rapid Decline in Penance from the Early to Mid 1900s:

We see likewise with the fasting days.

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." In 1902, the Holy Father granted a special dispensation for Catholics in England from fasting on the Vigil of Ss. Peter and Paul in honor of the coronation of King Edward VII.

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 no longer 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." Before 1917, the fast of a Vigil that fell on a Sunday was observed instead on the preceding Saturday.

Effective per the 1917 Code of Canon law, the Wednesdays and Fridays of Advent were no longer fast days for the Universal Church. Wednesdays of Advent had previously been abrogated as fast days in America in 1837. Now Fridays in Advent likewise ceased being required days of fast not only in America but universally. The Vigil of St. Peter and Paul also ceased as a fast day on the Universal Calendar, although it had already been abrogated in the United States. And 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."

Further, in 1931 Cardinal Fumasoni Biondi, the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, addressed the following to the American Bishops: "The Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a letter dated 15 Oct 1931, informs me that, in view of the difficulties experienced by the faithful in observing the laws of fast and abstinence on civil holidays, His Holiness, Pius XI, in the audience of 5 Oct. 1931, granted to all the Ordinaries of the United States, ad quinquennium, the faculty to dispense their subjects from the laws in question whenever any of the civil holidays now observed occurs on a day of fast and abstinence, or of abstinence" (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, 32-416; E.R., 86-65, 190).

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."

On January 28, 1949, the United States bishops issued a modified the 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.

Samuel Cardinal Stritch

Reductions in Fasting Intensify in the 1950's under Pope Pius XII:

Before 1951, Bishops were able to dispense laborers and their family members from the laws of abstinence, if necessary, under the workingmen's privilege that was introduced in 1895. This privilege of eating meat though excluded Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Week, and the Vigil of Christmas. In 1951, the abstinence laws in America were again revised as Father Ruff summarizes:
"In 1951 the U.S. bishops standardized regulations calling for complete abstinence from meat on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, the vigils of Assumption and Christmas, and Holy Saturday morning for everyone over age seven. On the vigils of Pentecost and All Saints, meat could be taken at just one meal. Fast days, applying to everyone between 21 and 59, were the weekdays of Lent, Ember days, and the vigils of Pentecost, Assumption, All Saints, and Christmas. On these fast days only one full meal was allowed, with two other meatless meals permitted which together did not make up one full meal. Eating between meals was not permitted, with milk and fruit juice permitted. Health or ability to work exempted one." 
As a result, the Vigil of All Saints was reduced to partial abstinence for American Catholics only in 1951.

In 1954, Pope Pius XII issued a special decree granting bishops the permission to dispense from Friday abstinence for the Feast of St. Joseph which that year fell on a Friday. A March 26, 1954 article of the Guardian elaborates: "Bishops throughout the world have been granted the faculty to dispense their faithful from the law of abstinence on the Feast of St. Joseph, Friday, March 19. The power was granted in a decree issued by the Sacred Congregation of the Council, which said it acted at the special mandate of His Holiness Pope Pius XII. The decree was published in L'Osservatore Romano made no mention of a dispensation from the Lenten fast."

1955 saw some of the most significant changes to the Church's liturgy since the Council of Trent. Pope Pius XII in "Cum nostra hac aetate" on March 23, 1955, abolished 15 Octaves in addition to the Octave for the Dedication of a Church, and particular octaves for patrons of various religious orders, countries, dioceses, etc. He also abolished roughly half of all vigils, leading to the removal of the liturgical vigils of the Immaculate Conception, Epiphany, All Saints, and All apostles except Ss. Peter and Paul. The total number of liturgical vigils was now reduced to 7.

Uncertainty existed on whether or not fasting was still required on October 31st, the Vigil of All Saints (commonly called Halloween). The US Bishops requested an official determination from Rome on whether the custom of fasting and abstinence on the suspended Vigil of All Saints had also been terminated. They received a pre-printed notice in a response dated March 15, 1957, stating: "The Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites...looks simply to the liturgical part of the day and does not touch the obligation of fast and abstinence that are a penitential preparation for the following feast day." The US Bishop thereafter dispensed both the fast and partial abstinence law for the Vigil of All Saints.

In 1956, Holy Saturday was commuted from complete to partial abstinence. Furthermore, the fast which previously ended at noon was extended to the midnight between Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, on account of the Holy Week changes enacted by Pius XII. And on July 25, 1957, Pope Pius XII commuted the fast in the Universal Church from the Vigil of the Assumption to the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception on December 7, even though he had previously abrogated the Mass for the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception.

On a separate note, in both 1953 and 1957 Pope Pius XII altered the more ancient Eucharistic Fast, and in 1957 introduced the practice of allowing Masses to be offered on Sunday evenings.

On October 9, 1958, Pope Pius XII died. John XXIII was elected and under him, as under his predecessor, changes to Church discipline continued. In 1959, John XXIII permitted the Christmas Eve fast and abstinence to be transferred to 23rd. While the United States, Great Britain, and Ireland kept the penance on December 24, other nations including Canada and the Philippines transferred it to December 23.

The Fasting Requirements of 1962:

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. Father Jone adds additional guidance for the Vigil of the Nativity fast: "General custom allows one who is fasting to take a double portion of food at the collation on Christmas Eve (jejunium gaudiosum)."

He further elaborates on the significance of the changes that had been made under Pope Pius XII: "There is no longer any question about the interpretation of workingmen since the new formula makes no difference between manual workers, stenographers, white collar workers, students, seminarians, religious, etc. All may make use of the same privileges. The purpose of these new regulations and important modifications is to enable those who are engaged in hard and exhaustive occupations, to keep the fast by enabling them to eat meat once on (partial) abstinence days. Furthermore, Catholics serving in the Armed Forces, while they are in actual service, and their families too, when eating with them, are dispensed from abstinence except on Ash Wednesdays, Good Fridays, Holy Saturday (the entire day) and the Vigil of Christmas. The Ordinaries of the United States may also dispense their subjects from the laws of fast and abstinence on civil holidays, but they are to exhort the faithful to make some offering, especially to the poor, by way of compensation. Bishops may dispense the entire diocese or any part of it (e.g. a town) for the special reason of a great concourse of people or for one of public health."

The Turkey Indult

It must be further clarified that no "turkey indult" exists in the form many believe, even though many Catholics attached to the 1962 Missal claim a dispensation from meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving, citing Pope Pius XII as the source of the dispensation. The dispensation from meat on the day after Thanksgiving was granted in 1957 in the form of quinquennial faculties given to local ordinaries to dispense from abstinence on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, as stated by Bouscaren in the Canon Law Digest. The quinquennial faculties last 5 years and must be renewed. In 1962 they were renewed but not afterward because there was no need to because of Paenitemini and more importantly because of the November 1966 decree by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), which made abstinence on all Fridays throughout the year "especially recommended" but not obligatory.

Before 1962, the Bishops in the United States did not generally dispense from Friday abstinence on the Friday after Thanksgiving. After the renewal in 1962, more Bishops began to exercise this. In 1963 the Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas made use of these privileges and dispensed the faithful from meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving:
"By reason of special faculties, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop, grants herewith the following dispensations: from the Law of Fast on the Feast of St. Joseph, Tuesday, March 19; from the Law of Abstinence on Friday, November 29, (day after Thanksgiving) and from the Laws of Fast and Abstinence on Saturday, December 7, Vigil of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception."
Such a dispensation from the law of abstinence was not permanently part of Church law by virtue of it being the Friday after Thanksgiving. While bishops or priests will today dispense from meat on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Pope Pius XII did not permanently dispense meat on that day as many allege. The research of Romanitas Press confirms this.

Nothing is Safe from Change Post-Vatican II:

Shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, 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 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. By this point, the days of obligatory fast had been reduced to merely two days.

For a chart comparing 1917 v. 1955 v. 1983 fasting and abstinence, please see Catholic Candle.

Holy Days Further Reduced in the 1990's:

Holy Days of Obligation, which had remained the same in the United States since 1917, were further modified in the latter part of the century.  On December 13, 1991, the United States Bishops issued a directive further abrogating New Years Day (the Circumcision), the Assumption, or All Saints in years when the feast falls on a Saturday or a Monday. And on March 23, 1992, in another reduction, the Bishop of Honolulu obtained an indult from the Holy See and approval from the United States episcopal conference to reduce the Holy Days of Obligation to only Christmas and the Immaculate Conception. With so many holy days reduced, and with priests largely not preaching on the necessity of attending Mass and of abstaining from servile works on them, the faithful have lost the sense of the sacred.

What We Have Lost:

Where has the rhythm and rhyme of the Catholic life gone? What have we gained from this slow erosion of the holy days and fasting days? The American Catholic Quarterly Review laments:
"The long line of festivals has been suppressed. Who has gained by it? The French Revolution seized and used all the property of the Church and the nobles. The poor were to be raised from their abject misery. By work and toil they were to acquire competence. After a century of trial the working class in France are desperate anarchists clamoring again for a seizure of property from those who hold it. Spain seized the Church property and has its discontented thousands. Italy did the same and drives her people into exile as immigrants to foreign lands. The gospel of work is now rejected by the poor. They have had too much of it. They clamor for fewer hours of work for more holydays for higher wages. The time and money they extort by combinations have no blessing both are spent in sensual indulgence. Their families do not gain by them but saloon keepers are enriched. These extorted holydays given by the nineteenth century do nothing to elevate or improve the masses. As a mere matter of political economy it may be asked whether the old time Catholic worker who had twenty religious holydays and spent much of them in ennobling and piety inspiring shrines was not happier in himself more prosperous in his home a more valuable element in the body politic than his modern representative."
Practical Considerations:

Consecration of St. Patrick's Cathedral. The day before a consecration used to be a required day of fasting. Father Dominic Prummer in "Moral Theology" published in 1949 states, "On the day previous to the consecration of a church both the Bishop and the people who ask for the church to be consecrated must fast. This is laid down in the Roman Pontifical."

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 which 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).

On a similar note, bishops could lawfully abrogate the precept of hearing Mass on Sundays and other Holy Days of Obligation. While no bishop may dispense the obligation of honoring the Holy Day, which is a matter of Divine Law ingrained in the Ten Commandments, matters of discipline may change. In the Church, there is a clear distinction between doctrine and discipline.

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.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves and our own families what we can do, even if not mandated by Church law, to recover these former holy days of obligation and fasting days. Cultivating a devotion to honor the many former Holy Days of Obligation by additional prayer, leisure, and assisting at the Church's official liturgies is certainly to be commended, even if not strictly required by law. Likewise, fasting and/or abstaining from meat and animal products on the forty days of Lent, the days of Advent, the Vigils of feasts, Ember Days, Rogation Days, and Saturdays year-round would be commendable. In a similar manner, observing the Apostles Fast or the Assumption Fast, which are still kept in the Eastern Churches, would also be praiseworthy for a Roman Catholic.

The Church has over time reduced the requirements required under penalty sin but She still implores the Faithful to do more than the mere minimum. But in reality, are we? St. Francis de Sales remarked, “If you’re able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church.”

What days can you add? How can you better observe the feast days of the Apostles or the feasts of our Lord or our Lady? How can we fast better - both in terms of the number of days as well as by limiting the food we consume on fast days?

The 1962 Missal and fasting calendar is not the embodiment of Catholic Tradition. Even the practices in place in 1917 under St. Pius X are shadows of former times. To reclaim Catholic Tradition requires a radical return to the Faith of our ancestors and their observances. May those of forefathers and ancestors of ours who are in Heaven and who see the face of God pray for us and for the entire Church Militant to return to the happy days of eras past when the liturgical year was intricately tied to one's life.
Wednesday, May 27, 2020
A History of Holy Days of Obligation & Fasting for American Catholics: Part 1

Note: I would like to thank Tyler Gonzalez for helping considerably with the research for this article.

The American Catholic Quarterly (ACQ) Review, Volume 11 offers an insightful series of reflections on Holy Days with a call for us to observe these as our forefathers in the life gladly did:
"The Church by one of her positive commandments requires the faithful to sanctify certain holydays in the year by taking part in the offering of the great sacrifice of the Mass and by abstaining from servile works. To many, it has doubtless seemed strange that the holydays thus prescribed were not the same throughout the world fixed irrevocably and known by all in every country on the face of the earth. Still more strange has it seemed that in a republic like our own where the Church though the oldest of all the institutions existing can boast of little more than three centuries and a half of history there have been diversities before the recently held Third Plenary Council of Baltimore [in 1884] made a step towards absolute uniformity.
"In the days of faith and fervor not only were the great festivals prescribed by the Church, those associated with the life of our Lord and His Blessed Mother, those intimately connected with the work of redemption, and the feasts of the holy apostles by whose ministry the Church was established and the channels of grace led through the world - not only were these kept reverently but the patronal feast of each country, diocese, and church, the days of the most famous local saints were similarly honored. The devotion was general, and whoso refused to lay aside his implements of trade or traffic on their days was so condemned by public opinion that custom made the law."
Interestingly, because the Church enjoined on the Faithful both the obligation to hear Mass as well as to refrain from servile work, the number of holy days, which included Sundays, was significant. Some people began to revolt against the Church claiming that these practices only increased poverty. But as the Journal notes, an interesting phenomenon occurred:
"Protestantism therefore at once swept away all the holydays and Christmas remained almost alone to represent the Church calendar, and the Puritans even punished those who kept Christmas.With men working all the year round except on Sunday, wealth was to be general, the poor would thrive and prosper and be happy and contented, no longer lured from great and ennobling labor by being called away every week to idle some days in church and prayer. It was again unfortunate that this excellent theory did not work well. The poor seemed to grow actually poorer with all these days of labor than they had been before."
The first catalog of Holy Days comes from the Decretals of Gregory IX in 1234, which listed 45 Holy Days. In 1642, His Holiness Pope Urban VIII issued the papal bull "Universa Per Orbem" which altered the required Holy Days of Obligation for the Universal Church to consist of 35 such days as well as the principal patrons of one's one locality.
  1. Nativity of Our Lord
  2. Circumcision of Our Lord
  3. Epiphany of Our Lord
  4. Monday within the Octave of the Resurrection
  5. Tuesday within the Octave of the Resurrection
  6. Ascension
  7. Monday within the Octave of Pentecost
  8. Tuesday within the Octave of Pentecost
  9. Most Holy Trinity
  10. Corpus Christi
  11. Finding of the Holy Cross (May 3)
  12. Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  13. Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  14. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  15. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  16. Dedication of St. Michael
  17. Nativity of St. John the Baptist
  18. SS. Peter and Paul
  19. St. Andrew
  20. St. James
  21. St. John (the December feast day)
  22. St. Thomas
  23. SS. Philip and James
  24. St. Bartholomew
  25. St. Matthew
  26. SS. Simon and Jude
  27. St. Matthias
  28. St. Stephen the First Martyr (the December feast day)
  29. The Holy Innocents
  30. St. Lawrence
  31. St. Sylvester
  32. St. Joseph
  33. St. Anne
  34. All Saints
  35. Principle Patrons of One’s Country, City, etc.
Some of the Holy Days of Obligation removed between 1234 and 1642 included Holy Monday through Holy Saturday in addition to Easter Wednesday through Easter Saturday.

In 1708, Pope Clement XI added the Conception of the Blessed Virgin to the list in his papal bull Commissi Nobis Divinitus. Before the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, the feast was often referred to as the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the word "Immaculate."

Holy Days of Obligation in the Colonies:

Not long after the proclamation of this bull do we see changes occurring for those living in the colonies in the New World as American Catholic Review illustrates:
"The Diocesan Synod held in 1688 by Bishop Palacios of Santiago de Cuba fixed as holydays for that diocese in which Florida was then embraced and from 1776 to 1793 Louisiana also the following: All the Sundays of the year, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, St Mathias, St Joseph, the Annunciation, Sts Philip and James, the Finding of the Holy Cross, St John Baptist, Sts Peter and Paul, St James, St Anne, St Lawrence, the Assumption, St Bartholomew, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthew, St Michael, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin, St Thomas, Christmas, St Stephen, St John, Holy Innocents, and St Sylvester, Easter Sunday and the two following days, Ascension, Whit Sunday and two following days, Corpus Christi. A bull of Pope Clement X added St Ferdinand, St Rose 'National Patroness of the Indies', and a bull of Innocent XI added St Augustine, August 28th."
Fasting & Abstinence Days in the South East Colonies:

The Church's Liturgical Year is a harmonious interplay of feasts and fasts interwoven in both the temporal and sanctoral cycles that define the rhythm and rhyme of Catholic life. Our ancestors in the New World in Florida and Louisiana would have known the following days of fast:
"The fasting days were all days in Lent; the Ember days; the of eves of Christmas, Candlemas, Annunciation, Assumption, All Saints, the feasts of the Apostles except St Philip and St James and St John, nativity of St John the Baptist; all Fridays except within twelve days of Christmas and between Easter and Ascension, and the eve of Ascension" (ACQ).
For abstinence from meat, they would have observed:
"All Sundays in Lent, all Saturdays throughout the year, Monday and Tuesday before Ascension, and St Mark's day were of abstinence from flesh meat" (ACQ).
It should be noted that in 1089 Pope Urban II granted a dispensation to Spain from abstinence on Fridays, in virtue of the Spanish efforts in the Crusades. After the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Pope St. Pius V expanded that privilege to all Spanish colonies. That dispensation remained in place in some places as late as 1951 when the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the last territory to invoke it, rescinded the privilege.

Fasting & Abstinence Days in the Western Colonies:

In Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California which were included in the ecclesiastical province of Mexico, the feasts and were regulated by the Third Council of Mexico in 1585, as American Catholic Quarterly Review states:
"In these parts besides those already [mentioned above for Florida], the faithful observed as holy days of obligation St Fabian and St Sebastian (January 20th), St Thomas Aquinas (March 7th), St Mark (April 25th), St Barnabas (June 1), the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin (July 2), St Mary Magdalene (July 22), St Dominic (Aug 4), the Transfiguration (Aug 6), St Francis (Oct 4), St Luke (Oct 18), St Catharine (Nov 25), the Expectation of the Blessed Virgin (Dec 18). 
"The fast days were all days in Lent except Sunday; eves of Christmas, Whit Sunday, St Mathias, St John the Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, St James, St Lawrence, Assumption, St Bartholomew, St Matthew, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, and St Thomas."
Holy Days & Fasting Days for Native Americans:

The papal bull "Altitudo Divini Concilii" of Pope Paul III in 1537 reduced the days of penance and those of hearing Mass for the Indians out of pastoral concern due to the physically demanding lifestyle that they lived and also largely due to the fact that they fasted so much already. As a result, the native were required to only hear Mass on a much smaller number of days: Sundays, Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, Annunciation, Sts Peter and Paul, Ascension, Corpus Christi, the Assumption, and the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. And the only fasting days were the Fridays in Lent, Holy Saturday, and Christmas Eve.

Holy Days in Canada & the Midwest:

Bishop François de Laval, the first Bishop of Quebec, on December 3, 1667, set the required Holy Days for Canada in accord with the bull of Pope Urban VIII. To those he added St. Francis Xavier, and in 1687, he likewise added St. Louis IX. Bishop François de Laval was declared a saint by equipollent canonization in April 2014 and is known to us now as Saint Francis-Xavier de Montmorency-Laval.

Quoting from the archives of Quebec, the American Catholic Quarterly Review lists the Holy Days in place as 1694:
"The holy days of obligation as recognized officially in 1694 were Christmas, St Stephen, St John, the Evangelist, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, St Matthew, St Joseph "patron of the country," Annunciation, St Philip and St James, St John the Baptist, St Peter and St Paul, St James, St Anne, St Lawrence, Assumption, St Bartholomew, St Louis "titular of the Cathedral of Quebec," Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthew, St Michael, St Simon and St Jude, All Saints, St Andrew, St Francis Xavier, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin "titular the Cathedral," St Thomas, Easter Monday and Tuesday, Ascension, Whitsun Monday and Tuesday, Corpus Christi, and the patronal feast of each parish."
These holy days were likewise in force in many current American states under Quebec's jurisdiction as the journal elaborates:
"These were the holydays observed in the French settlements in Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as in Louisiana, Mobile, and the country west of the Mississippi till that district passing under the Spanish rule was reclaimed about 1776 as part of the diocese of Santiago de Cuba. East of the Mississippi they continued to be in force certainly till the Holy See detached those parts of its territory from the diocese of Quebec and annexed them to the newly erected diocese of Baltimore. 
Thus, we see that little more than 100 years after Universa Per Orbem the observance of various holy days and fast days in the life of Catholics in the New World was already significantly reduced from those observed in Rome.

Significant Changes Occur in the 1700s for the Universal Church:

In 1741, Pope Benedict XIV, who lamented the decline in the Lenten observance, issued Non Ambigimus on May 31, 1741, granting permission to eat meat on fasting days while explicitly forbidden 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. The concept of partial abstinence was born even though the term would not appear until the 1917 Code of Canon Law.

Changes likewise occurred for Holy Days. In 1750, little more than one hundred years after "Universa Per Orbem," Pope Benedict XIV extended to the Spanish American colonies the indult previously granted to Catholic Spain reducing the days of obligation to all Sundays of the year, Christmas, St. Stephen, the Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, Easter Monday, Annunciation, Monday after Pentecost Sunday, Corpus Christi, Ascension, St. John the Baptist, Sts. Peter and Paul, the Assumption, St. James, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, All Saints, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the patron of each locality.

In 1771, Pope Clement XIV abolished both Pentecost Tuesday and Easter Tuesday as days of rest, according to Weiser's Christian Feasts and Customs. In 1778, the obligation to attend Mass on these two days was abrogated by Pope Pius VI, although they were not observed as Holy Days in most places, including in America.

Holy Days in Ireland

Table taken from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record

It must be stated that the gradual removal of Holy Days was not limited to the New World only. The Irish Ecclesiastical Record from 1882 describes a similar trend in Ireland:
"The full list of holidays of obligation as laid down in the Canon Law. This is the list drawn up by Urban VIII (Universa, September 13, 1642), with the addition of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, instituted by Clement XI in 1708. The holidays thus enumerated are 35 in number. I have of course included in the list the feast of St. Patrick, as holding in Ireland the place of the [patron] mentioned by Urban VIII in the constitution of 1642." 
There was a distinction between days of single or double precept. Days of double precept required hearing Mass and restraining from servile works, while days of half precept only required hearing Mass. Pope Benedict XIV in 1755 removed 18 feasts from double precept and reduced them to single precept. Shortly thereafter in 1778, Pope Pius VI reduced the number of holy days to 13. And as the Record states, "On this occasion, the obligation of hearing Mass was removed, as well as the obligation of abstaining from servile works."

Regarding fasting, we likewise see a reduction: "The number of those Vigils to which the obligation of fasting had been attached [as of 1778] was in fact but eight - these being the Vigils of the feast of St. Laurence the Martyr (August 9th), and of seven of the nine suppressed feasts of the Apostles." No fasting was observed beforehand on the Vigil of St. John on December 26 or the Vigil of Ss. Philip and James on account of them always falling in Christmas and Pascaltide respectively.

This reduction was likewise occurring in the British Colonies.

Holy Days & Fasting Days in England and Her Colonies:
"The Catholics of the British Isles, after the reform of Pope Urban VIII kept as obligatory: Christmas, the feasts of St Stephen, St John, Holy Innocents, and St Sylvester, Circumcision, Epiphany, Candlemas, the feasts of St Mathias and St Joseph, Annunciation, Sts Philip and James, Finding of the Holy Cross, St John the Baptist, Sts Peter and Paul, St James, St Anne, St Lawrence, the Assumption, St Bartholomew, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, St Matthew, St Michael, Sts Simon and Jude, All Saints, St Andrew and St Thomas, and one of the principal patrons of the city, province, or kingdom. These were the holydays of obligation observed by the Catholics in Maryland Virginia and Pennsylvania."
Unfortunately, the practice of the Catholic Religion was illegal in England. Catholicism was made illegal in 1559 under Queen Elizabeth I, and for 232 years, except during the reign of the Catholic James II (1685-1688), the Catholic Mass was illegal until 1791. Yet most Catholics could not hold any public office and had few civil rights even after 1791. It took the Emancipation Act of 1829 to restore most civil rights to Catholics in England. To these souls, most were unable to observe the Holy Days. The penalty of observing the Catholic Faith was death as the English Martyrs bear witness to. Likewise, due to persecution from the protestants, concessions were made for Catholics under the yoke of Protestantism in the British Isles.

On March 9, 1777, Pope Pius VI "dispensed all Catholics in the kingdom of Great Britain from the precept of hearing Mass and abstaining from servile works on all holydays except the Sundays of the year, the feasts of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Annunciation, Easter Monday, Ascension, Whitsun Monday, Corpus Christi, St Peter and St Paul, Assumption, and All Saints." These were the holy days in place at the time of the American Revolution.

The fasting days were also reduced at the same time to consist of the Ember Days; the forty days Lent; Wednesdays and Fridays in Advent; and the vigils of Christmas, Whitsun Sunday (i.e. Pentecost), Sts Peter and Paul, and All Saints.

Part II will cover the history of holy days and fasting from America's foundation to the present. Click here to read Part 2.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Minor Rogation Days

Image Source: FSSP

This year the Minor Rogation, the days leading up to Ascension Thursday, are May 18 - 20 inclusive. Dom Alcuin Reid recently gave a monastic conference on the Minor Rogation Days where he said in part:
Their observance is now similar in format to the Greater Litanies of April 25th, but these three days have a different origin, having been instituted in Gaul in the fifth century as days of fasting, abstinence and abstention from servile work in which all took part in an extensive penitential procession, often barefoot. The procession and litanies only found a place in the Roman liturgy much later (around the beginning of the ninth century) and even then purely as days of rogation – of intercession – rather than as ones of fasting and penance; the latter being deemed incompatible with the nature of Eastertide.
He continued:
Indeed, this ancient tradition itself is now widely lost in the West. How many Catholics understand what is meant by the greater or lesser litanies, or by the expression “the Rogations” – clergy included? 
Dom Guéranger himself lamented the lack of appreciation of the Rogations in his own day: “If we compare the indifference shown by the Catholics of the present age for the Rogation days, with the devotion wherewith our ancestors kept them, we cannot but acknowledge that there has been a great falling off in faith and piety. Knowing, as we do, the great importance attached to these processions by the Church, we cannot help wondering how it is that there are so few among the faithful who assist at them. Our surprise increases when we find persons preferring their own private devotions to these public prayers of the Church, which, to say nothing of the result of good example, merit far greater graces than any exercises of our own choosing.” (Ibid.)
The Minor Rogation Days go back to 470 AD when Bishop Mamertus of Vienne in Gaul instituted an annual observance of penance on the three days immediately before the Feast of the Ascension. He prescribed litanies (processions) for all three days. Thereafter they spread to the Frankish part of France in 511, to Spain in the 6th century, and to the German park of the Frankish empire in 813.  In 816, Pope Leo III incorporated the lesser litanies into the Roman Liturgy, and during the subsequent centuries the custom of holding these litanies being custom for each year.

While the Lesser Litanies (i.e. Minor Rogation Days) are kept on the three days leading up to Ascension Day, Father Francis Weiser notes an important exception: "Pope Pius XII granted to some Catholic missions in the Pacific Islands the permission to celebrate both the major and minor litanies in October or November" (Christian Feasts and Customs, p. 42).

Observe the Minor Rogation Days:

I greatly encourage people to observe these days and spend time praying the Litany of Saints not only for a bountiful harvest but also for mercy and repentance. Today is also a day we could fast or at least abstain from meat as penance to implore the mercy of God during our present chastisement. Rome enjoined abstinence from meat on everyone these days. Other places, like the Churches in Gaul where Rogation Days originated, required fasting. Fasting was championed as well by St. Charles Borromeo in Milan although Rome has never obligated fasting during the Pascal Season.

Prayer from the Rogation Mass of the ancient Gallican rite:

It is from thee, O Lord, we receive the food, wherewith we are daily supported; to thee also do we offer these fasts, whereby, according to thy command, we put upon our flesh the restraint from dangerous indulgence. Thou hast so ordered the changes of seasons, as to afford us consolation: thus the time for eating gives nourishment to the body, by sober repasts; and the time for fasting inflicts on them a chastisement pleasing to thy justice. Vouchsafe to bless and receive this our offering of a three days' penitential fast; and mercifully grant, that whilst our bodies abstain from gratification, our souls also may rest from sin. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect of the Rogation Mass:

Mercifully grant us our requests, O Lord, that the consolation we receive in our grievous troubles may increase our love for You.
Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Can Unclean Food Defile a Man?

To those who claim that the Scriptures in Matthew 15:11 condemn the Church's law of abstinence and fasting, Dom Gueranger in his "Liturgical Year" addresses the following words:
[God] tells them that there is no creature which is intrinsically, and of its own nature, unclean; and that a man’s conscience cannot be defiled by the mere fact of his eating certain kinds of food. Evil thoughts, and evil deeds, these, says our Saviour, are the things that defile a man. Some heretics have interpreted these words as being an implicit condemnation of the exterior practices ordained by the Church, and more especially of abstinence. To such reasoners and teachers we may justly apply what our Saviour said to the pharisees: They are blind and leaders of the blind. From this, that the sins into which a man falls by his use of material things are sins only on account of the malice of the will, which is spiritual, it does not follow that therefore man may, without any sin, make use of material things, when God or His Church forbids their use. 
God forbade our first parents, under pain of death, to eat the fruit of a certain tree; they ate it, and sin was the result of their eating. Was the fruit unclean of its own nature? No; it was a creature of God as well as the other fruits of Eden; but our first parents sinned by eating it, because their doing so was an act of disobedience. Again, when God gave His Law on Mount Sinai, He forbade the Hebrews to eat the flesh of certain animals; if they ate it, they were guilty of sin, not because this sort of food was intrinsically evil or cursed, but because they that partook of it disobeyed the Lord. 
The commandments of the Church regarding fasting and abstinence are of a similar nature. It is that we may secure to ourselves the blessing of Christian penance— in other words, it is for our spiritual interest—that the Church bids us abstain and fast at certain times. If we violate her law, it is not the food we take that defiles us, but the resisting a sacred power, which our Saviour, in yesterday's Gospel, told us we are to obey under the heavy penalty which He expressed in those words: He that will not hear the Church, shall be counted as a heathen and publican.
Tuesday, March 10, 2020
What is the Eucharistic Fast?

The Authority of Scripture 

St. Paul admonished those who approach Holy Communion with the purpose of merely eating food with condemnation: “For everyone taketh before his own supper to eat. And one indeed is hungry, and another is drunk. What, have you not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the church of God; and put them to shame that have not? What shall I say to you? Do I praise you? In this I praise you not" (1 Cor 11:21-22). Likewise, in the Acts of the Apostles 13:2, St. Luke mentions a connection between those present at the liturgy also fasting.

Observed Since Apostolic Times

Fasting before receiving our Lord in Holy Communion, although the specifics have changed over time, is of apostolic origin. Hippolytus (c. 170 – 235 AD) in the Apostolic Tradition writes, "The faithful shall be careful to partake of the eucharist before eating anything else." At the Synod of Hippo in 393, the Eucharistic Fast was codified in Canon 29, and again a few years later it was likewise codified at the Synod of Carthage in Canon 28.

St. Augustine bears witness to the universality of the fast before Holy Communion in his writings: “Must we therefore censure the universal Church because the sacrament is everywhere partaken of by persons fasting? Nay, verily, for from that time it pleased the Holy Spirit to appoint, for the honour of so great a sacrament, that the body of the Lord should take the precedence of all other food entering the mouth of a Christian; and it is for this reason that the custom referred to is universally observed.”

Why Do We Observe the Eucharistic Fast?

St. Thomas Aquinas provides three salutary reasons for this ancient discipline in th Summa Theologica (ST III, q. 80, a. 8):
1) First, as Augustine says (Resp. ad Januar., Ep. liv), “out of respect for this sacrament,” so that it may enter into a mouth not yet contaminated by any food or drink. 
2) Secondly, because of its signification. i.e. to give us to understand that Christ, Who is the reality of this sacrament, and His charity, ought to be first of all established in our hearts, according to Mt. 6:33: “Seek first the kingdom of God.” 
3) Thirdly, on account of the danger of vomiting and intemperance, which sometimes arise from over-indulging in food, as the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 11:21): “One, indeed, is hungry, and another is drunk.”
What is the Current Eucharistic Fast? 

The 1983 Code of Canon Law provides the following, which incorporates the changes made by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964 and January 29, 1973
Can. 919 §1 Whoever is to receive the blessed Eucharist is to abstain for at least one hour before holy communion from all food and drink, with the sole exception of water and medicine. 
§2 A priest who, on the same day, celebrates the blessed Eucharist twice or three times may consume something before the second or third celebration, even though there is not an hour’s interval. 
§3 The elderly and those who are suffering from some illness, as well as those who care for them, may receive the blessed Eucharist even if within the preceding hour they have consumed something.
What was the Fast Prior to 1964?

The Eucharistic Fast immediately prior to Paul VI’s changes followed the mitigated discipline introduced by Pope Pius XII on January 6, 1953, in Christus Dominus and on March 25, 1957, in Sacram Communionem. While legislating on a number of finer details, as a whole, Pope Pius XII’s legislation mitigated the fast to be for three hours before Holy Communion from all solid food and all alcoholic beverages. Nonalcoholic beverages were subject to a one hour fast, though water was permitted as stated in Christus Dominus: “In the future it shall be a general and common principle for all, both priests and faithful, that natural water does not break the Eucharistic fast.”

Note, that Pope Pius XII encouraged those who could keep the older fast to continue to do so: “We strongly exhort priests and faithful who are able to do so to observe the old and venerable form of the Eucharistic fast before Mass and Holy Communion. All those who will make use of these concessions must compensate for the good received by becoming shining examples of a Christian life and principally with works of penance and charity.”

What was the Fast Prior to Pope Pius XII?

The traditional Eucharistic fast involved total abstinence from all food and all drinks, including water, from midnight until the reception of Holy Communion. Such a fast applied to priests as well as anyone approaching Holy Communion. This was enriched into Canon 858 of the 1917 Code: “Those who have not kept the natural fast from midnight are not allowed to receive, except in danger of death, or in case it should become necessary to consume the Blessed Sacrament to safeguard it against irreverence.”


The Eucharistic Fast is set by the Church so that those who are to receive our Lord in Holy Communion are more consciously aware of this sublime encounter. We need to fast beforehand to adequately prepare ourselves. To intentionally violate the Eucharistic fast is a mortal sin. Let us endeavor to observe in our own lives the strictness of the traditional discipline, in a time when so few do penance.
Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Lenten Ember Days: Fast and Abstinence

The Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week are the Lenten Ember Days - a time set aside for us to fast and abstain from meat.

Practically speaking, these days do not really differ from the rest of traditional Lent. Most traditional Catholics understand that Lent is a period of forty days of fasting. Sadly this has been lost by the mainstream Catholics today. Yet, even most traditional Catholics who only keep the 1917 Code of Canon Law do not keep Lent as forty days of abstinence as well. For many centuries, Lent was a time of fasting and a time when all meat and animal products (e.g. milk, eggs, butter, cream, etc) were forbidden.

Those who keep Lent as forty days of fasting and forty days of abstinence will already be performing the minimum required of an Ember Day already because of Lent. However, if you are not observing these days as days of fasting or days of abstinence, now is a time to start. 

Besides these works of mortification, the main difference in our own prayer lives for these Ember Days should be offering additional prayers, and our morning offering, for the intention of a good harvest, for vocations, and for those who are about to be ordained.

Ember Days are set aside to pray and/or offer thanksgiving for a good harvest and God's blessings. If you are in good health, please fast and abstain during these three days and pray the additional prayers the Church asks for at this time. Remember the words from the Gospel: "Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish" (Luke 13:5).

From Dom Gueranger's Liturgical Year for Ember Wednesday in Lent:
The fast of to-day is prescribed by a double law: it is Lent, and it is Ember Wednesday. It is the same with the Friday and Saturday of this week. There are two principal objects for the Ember days of this period of the year: the first is to offer up to God the season of spring, and, by fasting and prayer, to draw down His blessing upon it; the second is, to ask Him to enrich with His choicest graces the priests and sacred ministers who are to receive their Ordination on Saturday. Let us, therefore, have a great respect for these three days; and let those who violate, upon them, the laws of fasting or abstinence, know that they commit a twofold sin.
From New Advent:
Ember days (corruption from Lat. Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after 13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. 
At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. 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. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week--these were formerly given only at Easter. 
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.
From Catholic Culture:
Since man is both a spiritual and physical being, the Church provides for the needs of man in his everyday life. The Church's liturgy and feasts in many areas reflect the four seasons of the year (spring, summer, fall and winter). The months of August, September, October and November are part of the harvest season, and as Christians we recall God's constant protection over his people and give thanksgiving for the year's harvest.

The September Ember Days were particularly focused on the end of the harvest season and thanksgiving to God for the season. Ember Days were three days (Wednesday, Friday and Saturday) set aside by the Church for prayer, fasting and almsgiving at the beginning of each of the four seasons of the year. The ember days fell after December 13, the feast of St. Lucy (winter), after the First Sunday of Lent (spring), after Pentecost Sunday (summer), and after September 14 , the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (fall). These weeks are known as the quattor tempora, the "four seasons."

Since the late 5th century, the Ember Days were also the preferred dates for ordination of  priests. So during these times the Church had a threefold focus: (1) sanctifying each new season by turning to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving; (2) giving thanks to God for the various harvests of each season; and (3) praying for the newly ordained and for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Advent Ember Day Fast

If you are in good health, please at least fast during these three days and pray additional prayers. Remember the words from the Gospel: "Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish" (Luke 13:5).  Ember Days are days of fasting and partial abstinence.

Please click here for a special Ember Day Manual, including reflections for the Advent Ember Days.  It is free.

Ember Days this Advent: December 18, 20, and 21

From Angelus Press Daily Missal:
At the beginning of the four seasons of the Ecclesiastical Year, the Ember Days have been instituted by the Church to thank God for blessings obtained during the past year and to implore further graces for the new season. Their importance in the Church was formerly very great. They are fixed on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: after the First Sunday of Lent for spring, after Pentecost Sunday for summer, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (14th September) for autumn, and after the Third Sunday of Advent for winter. They are intended, too, to consecrate to God the various seasons in nature, and to prepare by penance those who are about to be ordained. Ordinations generally take place on the Ember Days. The faithful ought to pray on these days for good priests. The Ember Days were until c. 1960 fastdays of obligation.
Friday, November 15, 2019
St. Martin's Lent

Detail from Charité de Saint Martin by Caroline Sorg (1864)

November 15th in the Eastern Rite Churches begins the Nativity Fast. This 40-day long period fasting is a preparation for the holy celebration of Christmas. Like Lent, the Eastern Churches observe a period of 40 days of fasting in preparation for the Nativity of the Lord. This was practiced for many centuries by the Western Church, especially before Advent became four weeks in Lent. Previously, Advent was modeled after Lent. The fast, which shortly follows Martinmas, is often called "St. Martin's Lent." Learn more at AroundtheYear. The exact beginning has varied. Sometime ago it was begun on November 12th, the day immediately after Martinmas, thus taking the name of St. Martin's Lent. In the Byzantine tradition it is called both the Nativity Fast as well as St. Philip's Fast since November 14th is the Feast of St. Philip in the Byzantine Rite.

[St. Martin’s Lent] was formerly observed, even by the Laity, with Abstinence from Flesh, and with a rigorous Fast, in some Places, by Precept, in others of Devotion, and without any positive Obligation, though universal. The first Council of Maçon, in 581, ordered Advent from St. Martin’s to Christmas-day three Fasting Days a Week, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; but the whole Term of forty Days, was observed with a strict Abstinence from Flesh Meat.—Alban Butler

Latin Rite Catholics today may certainly still observe fasting during this time to spiritually prepare themselves for Christmas. Beginning with Vespers on November 15th, the Nativity Fast continues until just before Vespers on Christmas Eve.

As with all periods of fasting, Fasting is forbidden on Sundays. Due to many popular feast days occurring between now and December 9th, many places began to adapt the fast to begin on December 10th. Latin Rite Catholics traditionally already fasted on the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception (December 7th) and on the Vigil of the Nativity (December 24th). Those two days should still be observed by Roman Catholics devotionally. In years when these days fall on a Sunday, fasting is suppressed.

The fast's purpose is to spiritually prepare the soul for drawing closer to God. Along with our fasting, we must increase our own prayer life, almsgiving, and good works. Fasting without increased prayer should never be done.

Ask yourself - can you join in this ancient fasting period (aside from Thanksgiving Day and Sundays and the Holy Day of the Immaculate Conception)?

Can you offer this penance for the conversion of sinners as a Christmas present to the Lord?

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