Catholic Activity: Lenten Fasting and Abstinence Regulations
A summary of the Fasting and Abstinence Regulations during Lent for Catholics.
1) Abstinence on all the Fridays of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
- No meat may be eaten on days of abstinence.
- Catholics 14 years and older are bound to abstain from meat. Invalids, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt.
- (Fish and all cold blooded animals may be eaten, e.g., frogs, clams, turtles, alligators, etc.)
2) Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
- Fasting means having only one full meal to maintain one's strength. Two smaller, meatless and penitential meals are permitted according to one's needs, but they should not together equal the one full meal. Eating solid foods between meals is not permitted.
- Catholics who have reached the completion of the eighteenth year to the beginning of the sixtieth year are bound to fast. Again, invalids, pregnant and nursing mothers are exempt.
For further reading, see:
- Code of Canon Law, 1249-1253
- Apostolic Constitution on Penance (Paenitemini)
- USCCB Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence
3) Friday Abstinence Outside of Lent
It should be noted that Fridays throughout the year are designated days of penance. The Code of Canon Law states that Friday is a day of abstinence from meat throughout the year. The American Bishops have allowed us to choose a different form of penance rather than abstaining from meat, but there must be some form of penance, for this is the day we commemorate Christ's suffering and death. The bishops stress that "[a]mong the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance...we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat" (Pastoral Statement on Fasting and Abstinence).