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Catholic Church Rules On Lenten Fasting

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Questions And Answers About Lent And Lenten Practices

Catholic Mothers: Why Fasting is Necessary (plus Lent fasting rules)

Q. Why do we say that there are forty days of Lent? When you count all the days from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, there are 46.

A. It might be more accurate to say that there is the “forty day fast within Lent.” Historically, Lent has varied from a week to three weeks to the present configuration of 46 days. The forty day fast, however, has been more stable. The Sundays of Lent are certainly part of the Time of Lent, but they are not prescribed days of fast and abstinence.

Q. So does that mean that when we give something up for Lent, such as candy, we can have it on Sundays?

A. Apart from the prescribed days of fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and the days of abstinence every Friday of Lent, Catholics have traditionally chosen additional penitential practices for the whole Time of Lent. These practices are disciplinary in nature and often more effective if they are continuous, i.e., kept on Sundays as well. That being said, such practices are not regulated by the Church, but by individual conscience.

Q. I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

Q. I understand that Catholics ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, but what exactly are the rules for these fasts?

Q. Are there exemptions other than for age from the requirement to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

Fasting And Abstinence Obligations


Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of universal fast and abstinence. Fasting is obligatory for all who have completed their 18th year and have not yet reached their 60th year. Fasting allows a person to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may be taken, not to equal one full meal. Abstinence is obligatory for all who have reached their 14th year.

If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil as the “paschal fast” to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection.


Fridays in Lent are obligatory days of complete abstinence for all who have completed their 14th year.

Rules For Penitential Days Under Present Church Law

In 1966, Pope Paul VI promulgated a new set of regulations for fasting and abstaining by his apostolic constitution, Paenitemini. These new rules are listed in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, Canons 1249-1253 and all Roman Catholics are bound to strictly observe them.

There are two sets of laws that apply to the Church’s penitential days:

  • The law of abstinence: this refers to abstaining from meat.
  • The law of fasting: this refers to the quantity of food taken, thus also refraining from eating between meals.
  • Who is bound to observe these laws

    • The law of abstinence binds all Catholics, beginning on the day after their 14th birthday.
    • Thelaw of fasting binds all adults until the midnight which completes their 59th birthday.

    What is forbidden and allowed to be eaten?

    • The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat. This does not apply to dairy products, eggs, or condiments and shortening made from animal fat.
    • The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day and two smaller meals. The two smaller meals should not equal the quantity of the main meal .
    • Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids are allowed, including milk and fruit juices.
    • Fish and all cold-blooded animals may be eaten .

    In the Universal Church

    Obligatory days of fast and abstinence:

    • Abstinence is obligatory on all Fridays, except on Solemnities .
    • Fasting and abstinence are obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

    In the USA:

    Also Check: Does Fasting Lower Psa Levels

    The Connection Between Lent And Fasting

    Fasting, in general, is a form of self-denial and most often refers to abstention from food. In a spiritual fast, such as during Lent, the purpose is to show restraint and self-control. It is a spiritual discipline intended to allow each person to focus more closely on their relationship with God without the distractions of worldly desires.

    This does not mean that you cannot eat anything during Lent. Instead, many churches place restrictions on specific foods such as meat or include recommendations on how much to eat. This is why you will often find restaurants offering meatless menu options during Lent and why many believers seek out meatless recipes to cook at home.

    In some churches, and for many individual believers, fasting may extend beyond food. For instance, you might consider abstaining from a vice like smoking or drinking, refraining from a hobby you enjoy, or not indulging in activities like watching television. The point is to steer your attention away from temporary satisfactions so that you are better able to concentrate on God.

    All of this stems from multiple references in the Bible to the benefits of fasting. In Matthew 4:1-2, for example, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness during which he was greatly tempted by Satan. While fasting was often used as a spiritual tool in the New Testament, in the Old Testament it was often a form of expressing grief.

    What Are Catholic Fasting And Abstinence

    Ash Wednesday Fasting Rules Catholic

    When we talk about Catholic fasting and abstinence, it helps to know what were talking about. So, lets start with a few definitions before we dive into the official Catholic Lent fasting rules:

    Catholic Fasting refers to the practice to eating noticeably less.

    Catholic Abstinence refers to the practice of choosing not to eat meat, or any products that contain pieces of meat.

    *Note: Catholics ONLY practice fasting for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstinence for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent. On every other day of the week, Catholics eat like normal .

    So heres what that looks like

    Recommended Reading: What Fasting Is Best For Me

    When Is Ash Wednesday And What Does It Signify

    Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent, a 40-day time of remembrance, fasting, and prayer, leads into the Holy Saturday or Maundy Thursday before Easter Sunday, depending on the tradition you ascribe to.

    Although Ash Wednesday is enriched with Christian symbolism, we dont actually find an instance of this particular holiday in the Bible. The holiday didnt have a biblical origin but owing to the Council of Nicea implementing a 40-day fasting period prior to Easter, many debated as to when that period would start.

    In the fifth century, Pope Gregory transferred the beginning day of Lent from a Sunday to Ash Wednesday.

    Even though we dont encounter an Ash Wednesday in the New Testament, we do see instances of people sprinkling ashes on themselves as a sign of repentance and sorrow .

    Today, Ash Wednesday signifies the start of fasting, prayer, and reflection on our sin and the death of Jesus on the cross to atone for us.

    Many Lenten traditions include a 40-day abstaining from certain foods. And some people have turned Lent into fasting from something that has taken their attention away from God .

    But, as we will discuss below, there are certain items Christians from more traditional denominations will abstain from.

    What Is The Meaning Of Lent

    Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, which is a liturgical season observed by Catholics and consists of forty days of fasting, prayer, and penitence.The season comes to a close at sundown on Holy Thursday.The season of Lent is characterized by the use of the color violet in liturgical observances.The Origins of the Season of Lent The practice of fasting during the forty days leading up to Easter is known as Lent.

    Read Also: How To Lose The Most Weight While Intermittent Fasting

    Fasting And Abstinence In The Roman Catholic Church

    Article by Chelsey Trisa

    For Roman Catholics, fasting is the reduction of ones intake of food to one full meal and two small meals , both of which together should not equal the large meal. Eating solid food between meals is not permitted. Fasting is required of the faithful between the ages of 18 and 59 on specified days. Complete abstinence, required of those 14 and older, is the avoidance of meat for the entire day. Partial abstinence prescribes that meat be taken only once during the course of the day.

    Pope Pius XII had initially relaxed some of the regulations concerning fasting in 1956. In 1966, Pope Paul VI in his apostolic constitution Paenitemini, changed the strictly regulated Roman Catholic fasting requirements. He recommended that fasting be appropriate to the local economic situation, and that all Catholics voluntarily fast and abstain. In the United States, there are only two obligatory days of fast Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence: those observing the practice may not eat meat. Pastoral teachings since 1966 have urged voluntary fasting during Lent and voluntary abstinence on the other Fridays of the year. The regulations concerning such activities do not apply when the ability to work or the health of a person would be negatively affected.

    What Is Christian Fasting

    How to Explain Fasting and Abstinence During Lent to Catholic Kids

    Christian fasting can be explained as refraining from food for spiritual purposes and edification. Merely abstaining from food because it is not available or for medical causes does not equate to Christian fasting. There must be a spiritual motive and purpose for fasting as a Christian, especially the fasting of Lent.

    In his book A Hunger for God, John Piper writes, Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God. Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of a superior satisfaction in God, it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away.

    The purpose of fasting must be to draw closer to God.

    Also Check: Should Intermittent Fasting Be Done Daily

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    On Lenten Fasting And Abstinence03/22/2022 At : 45 Pmposted By Kevin Edward White

    As we continue to practice our Traditional Catholic Faith this Lent, it is important to remember why we fast and abstain and the history of these practices, which go back to apostolic times. As we see how severe the rules were in the past, we can appreciate how much understanding the Church has already shown in curtailing the previous more strict practices, but at the same time we see how She has every right to govern the required form of penances of Her children. For penance is obligatory, not optional, in order to live the Catholic life.

    The following chapter from the book, The Visible Church: Her Government, Ceremonies, Sacramentals, Festivals and Devotions does this splendidly. This book used to be a textbook for Catholic Schools in 1922, back when they were Catholic. I now leave you with the wise words of the Rt. Rev. John F. Sullivan, D.D. I hope they will provide the same assistance to you during this Lent as they did to me.

    Chris Jackson




    The Collation. About the tenth century the breaking of the fast at noonday was generally introduced, and, a little later, the taking of a collation was permitted in addition to the daily meal.

    From Apostolic times Friday has been a day of abstinence, and the reason is obvious to every Christian. Our Blessed Redeemer died on that day for our sins, and we should commemorate His sufferings and offer some expiation ourselves by voluntary mortification.

    Read Also: Why I Stopped Intermittent Fasting

    Spiritual And Physical Benefits Of Fasting

    The spiritual edification of fasting is to encourage our reliance on God and repentance for the lack thereof. Fasting for Lent is primarily a spiritual discipline to orient our full dependence on God. We repent for not always acknowledging God’s presence and grace in providing our every need. Our God is a loving God, and fasting is one way to refocus our lives upon seeking first His kingdom of heaven.

    “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” .

    Fasting has gained popularity for its health benefits in the last decade as many have questioned the diets and lifestyles of modernity. The physical health benefits of fasting have been studied to show promising biological advantages from ancient spiritual practice. Healthline reported a collection of health benefits from fasting, some that are mentioned include:

    • Promotes Blood Sugar Control by Reducing Insulin Resistance
    • Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation
    • May Boost Brain Function and Prevent Neurodegenerative Disorders
    • Aids Weight Loss by Limiting Calorie Intake and Boosting Metabolism
    • Increases Growth Hormone Secretion, Which Is Vital for Growth, Metabolism, Weight Loss and Muscle Strength

    When Is Lent 2022

    Pin on Catholic and Alive

    Each year, the Lenten season is determined by the liturgical observance of Easter Sunday, which is a moving Christian holiday. The date cant be fixed, since Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after the spring equinox.

    From there, Western and Eastern churches differ a bit. In Western Christian churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday . Eastern churches begin Lent on the Monday of the 7th week before Easter and end on the Friday nine days preceding Easter.

    You May Like: H Pylori Breath Test Fasting

    Rules For Roman Catholics In The United States

    The law of fasting refers to “those who have attained their majority,” which may differ from culture to culture and country to country. In the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared that “the age of fasting is from the completion of the eighteenth year to the beginning of the sixtieth.”

    The USCCB also allows the substitution of some other form of penance for abstinence on all Fridays of the year, except for the Fridays of Lent. The rules for fasting and abstinence in the United States are:

    • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and every Friday of Lent.
    • Every person between the ages of 18 and 59 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting consists of one full meal per day, with two smaller meals that do not add up to a full meal, and no snacks.
    • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat on all other Fridays of the year unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence.

    If you are outside the United States, check with the bishops’ conference for your country for specific fasting rules.

    Why Is Lent Observed In Only Some Christian Churches

    In the Protestant world, particularly among many evangelical denominations and independent churches, the Church Calendar is not observed. The seasons were omitted along with most of the sacraments and the use of liturgy in their approach to faith. These Christians do observe Christmas and Easter and some might even celebrate Pentecost.

    You May Like: Free Fasting App For Weight Loss

    You May Like: Does Fasting Kill Cancer Cells

    When Does Lent Start& End

    Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, which is a liturgical season observed by Catholics and consists of forty days of fasting, prayer, and penitence.The season comes to a close at sundown on Holy Thursday.The season of Lent is characterized by the use of the color violet in liturgical observances.On February 14, 2018, the season of Lent will begin.

    The practice of fasting during the forty days leading up to Easter is known as Lent.

    Fasting And Abstinence In The Catholic Church

    Fasting in the Catholic Church

    Election of the Roman Pontiff

    The Catholic Church historically observes the disciplines of fasting and abstinence at various times each year. For Catholics, fasting is the reduction of one’s intake of food, while abstinence refers to refraining from something that is good, and not inherently sinful, such as meat. The Catholic Church teaches that all people are obliged by God to perform some penance for their sins, and that these acts of penance are both personal and corporeal. Bodily fasting is meaningless unless it is joined with a spiritual avoidance of sin. Basil of Caesarea gives the following exhortation regarding fasting:

    Let us fast an acceptable and very pleasing fast to the Lord. True fast is the estrangement from evil, temperance of tongue, abstinence from anger, separation from desires, slander, falsehood and perjury. Privation of these is true fasting.

    Read Also: How Many Meals Should You Eat While Intermittent Fasting

    What Can You Eat During Lent 2022 Catholic Lent Fasting Rules Cheat Sheet

    Print out this What Can You Eat During Lent cheat sheet and hang it on your fridge!

    Its free, easy, and it really works.

    Id be happy to email it to you too.

    Simply enter your name and email in the boxes below, and Ill send it right over, along with some other resources I know youll find really helpful this year.

    Not only will this What Can You Eat During Lent cheat sheet help you remember WHAT you can eat and WHEN, but it also serves as a good reminder so you dont forget! ?

    Id be happy to send one your way. Where should I send it?

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