Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence ^ | 02-18-02 | Colin B. Donovan, STL

Posted on 02/19/2004 9:49:26 PM PST by Salvation

The Holy Season of Lent
Fast and Abstinence.

It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez.  18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38). Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). The general law of penance, therefore, is part of the law of God for man.

The Church for her part has specified certain forms of penance, both to ensure that the Catholic will do something, as required by divine law, while making it easy for Catholics to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics [Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as specified by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches].

Canon 1250  All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

Canon 1251  Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Canon 1252  All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Can. 1253  It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

The Church, therefore, has two forms of official penitential practices - three if the Eucharistic fast of one hour before Communion is included.

Abstinence  The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. Also forbidden are soups or gravies made from them. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing. They must do some penitential/charitable practice on these Fridays. For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere.

Fasting The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment,  manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the Church's law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in giving up something one enjoys - candy, soft drinks, smoking, that cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God.

----   Colin B. Donovan, STL

TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Current Events; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Humor; Islam; Judaism; Mainline Protestant; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Other non-Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics; Religion & Science; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: abstinence; ashwednesday; catholiclist; fast; goodfriday; holysaturday; holythursday; lent; triduum
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061-76 next last
To: SoothingDave

What the Church Teaches About Lent

1. General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar

"Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices." (#27)

2. Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (Documents of Vatican II)

109. The season of Lent has a twofold character; primarily by recalling or preparing for Baptism and by Penance, it disposes the faithful, who more diligently hear the Word of God and devote themselves to prayer, to celebrate the paschal mystery. This twofold character is to be brought into greater prominence both in the liturgy and by liturgical catechesis. Hence:

a) More use is to be made of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy; some of them, which used to flourish in bygone days, are to be restored as may seem good.

b) The same is to apply to the penitential elements. As regards instruction it is important to impress on the minds of the faithful not only the social consequences of sin but also that essence of the virtue of penance which leads to the detestation of sin as an offense against God; the role of the Church in penitential practices is not to be passed over, and the people must be exhorted to pray for sinners.

110. During Lent penance should not be only internal and individual, but also external and social. The practice of penance should be fostered in ways that are possible in our own times and in different regions and according to the circumstances of the faithful&

Nevertheless, let the paschal fast be kept sacred. Let it be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and where possible prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind.

41 posted on 02/20/2004 1:04:19 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 39 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
Sorry. Of course one shouldn't be getting drunk on a fast day. Whether in Nebraska or not.


42 posted on 02/20/2004 1:20:52 PM PST by SoothingDave
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: SoothingDave
I didn't to imply that at all. OK this is going too far, Dave.
43 posted on 02/20/2004 1:54:09 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
We have not yet begun to go too far. ;-)

Have a great weekend. Lent is coming. :-)


44 posted on 02/20/2004 1:58:02 PM PST by SoothingDave
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 43 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
My parish seems to be getting better and better all the time. We are actually having a "mission" during Lent. Remember those? The theme will be Our Lady of Sorrows. Confession will be offered everyday during the mission. Honestly, I haven't experienced a parish mission since the 1960s.
45 posted on 02/20/2004 4:54:16 PM PST by k omalley
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: SoothingDave
I got to worrying this afternoon thinking that you might be taking me too seriously. Glad that didn't happen!
46 posted on 02/20/2004 7:25:16 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: k omalley
The Seven Sorrows of Mary were in one of the Mass commentaries that I posted last week. I'll look for it for you.
47 posted on 02/20/2004 7:26:19 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: k omalley
Missions are wonderful if you have a good mission master.

We had Father Emerito from India do one for us last year. It was outstanding. He preached on the hard hitting topics: abortion, marriage fidelity, drugs and other addictions. He was just outstanding. Heard confessions before Mass, after Mass, in the evening before the Mission, after the Mission, by appointment........I think almost everyone went to confession. He was so holy!


Here are the sorrows ---


The Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are,
the prophecy of Simeon;
the flight into Egypt;
losing Jesus in Jerusalem;
meeting Jesus on his way to Calvary;
standing at the foot of the Cross;
Jesus being taken from the Cross;
and the burial of Christ.

That looks like it will be perfect before Lent or during Lent.
48 posted on 02/20/2004 7:34:39 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
Thanks, Salvation! I am really looking forward to a good Lent. So often I make big resolutions which never come to fruition. Sure hope I do better this year!
49 posted on 02/21/2004 5:28:38 AM PST by k omalley
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 48 | View Replies]

To: All

BTTT in preparation for Lent 2005!

50 posted on 02/05/2005 11:55:05 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 49 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Lenten journey ping!

51 posted on 02/08/2005 7:05:05 PM PST by Ciexyz (I use the term Blue Cities, not Blue States. PA is red except for Philly, Pgh & Erie)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: All

Lenten Question
Q: Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance?
A: Yes. The book of Daniel states: "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Daniel 10:1-3)  

52 posted on 02/14/2005 12:14:02 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 51 | View Replies]

To: Salvation


53 posted on 02/20/2005 6:12:40 AM PST by StAthanasiustheGreat (Vocatus Atque Non Vocatus Deus Aderit)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 52 | View Replies]



54 posted on 02/20/2005 6:14:53 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 53 | View Replies]

To: All
Friday, Second Week of  Lent
Fridays of  Lent are days of abstinence from meat.
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age. (Genesis 37:3)

O Divine Word, You humbled Yourself even unto death and willed to be treated as the least of men by sinners, by demons, and even by the Holy Spirit and by Your Eternal Father. You did all this to glorify your Father, to make reparation for the offenses committed against Him by pride, to confound and destroy our arrogance and to teach us to detest vanity and to love humility. Oh! how truly can we see that pride dishonors God and is very displeasing to Him, since it is necessary for you, the Son of God, to be so humiliated in order to atone for such dishonor!
We can truly say also that vanity is a monstrous thing since in order to destroy it, You were willing to be reduced to such humiliation! Oh! how firmly must we  believe that in the eyes of God humility is an infinitely precious treasure and a jewel most pleasing to Him, since You, His divine Son, willed to be so humiliated to make us love this virtue, and to urge us to imitate You in the practice of it, and thus merit the grace to perform its works.'  ..... St. John Eudes

Lenten Question

Q: What is a day of fast and abstinence?
A: Under current canon law in the Western Rite of the Church, a day of fast is one on which Catholics who are eighteen to sixty years old are required to keep a limited fast. In this country, one may eat a single, normal meal and have two snacks, so long as these snacks do not add up to a second meal.

Children are not required to fast, but their parents must ensure they are properly educated in the spiritual practice of fasting. Those with medical conditions requiring a greater or more regular food intake can easily be dispensed from the requirement of fasting by their pastor.

A day of abstinence is a day on which Catholics fourteen years or older are required to abstain from eating meat (under the current discipline in America, fish, eggs, milk products, and condiments or foods made using animal fat are permitted in the Western Rite of the Church, though not in the Eastern Rites.) Again, persons with special dietary needs can easily be dispensed by their pastor.

Lenten Action.

Share an answered prayer with a friend—give God credit in words. Remember to give thanks to God for what you received.


Merciful Father, may our acts of penance bring us your forgiveness, open our hearts to your love, and prepare us for the coming feast of Your resurrection

55 posted on 02/25/2005 7:21:23 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 54 | View Replies]

To: All

Lenten Question

Q: Is there a biblical basis for abstaining from meat as a sign of repentance?
A: Yes. The book of Daniel states: "In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia . . . 'I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.'" (Daniel 10:1-3)

56 posted on 02/27/2005 7:40:14 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 55 | View Replies]

To: All

Lenten Question

Q: Why do we fast and abstain during Lent?

A:We fast and abstain:  Because Jesus told us to. "Unless the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it remains alone; but if it dies, it will produce much fruit." Unless you do penance you shall all likewise perish.

Whoever does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple. The Christian must take up his Cross daily and follow Christ. Walk in the spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.

St. Paul says, those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If you live according to the flesh, you will die. Whoever seeks to lose his life, will gain it. Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Many live as enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly. And their glory is their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. You have died and your life is hid with Christ in God. Enter by the narrow gate for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction and those who enter it are many. For the gate  is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

57 posted on 03/19/2005 7:54:04 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 56 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Lent 2006 is just around the corner!

58 posted on 02/26/2006 9:27:26 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: All
Here are some other links about Lent:

The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence

The Holy Season of Lent -- The Stations of the Cross

Lent and Fasting

Mardi Gras' Catholic Roots [Shrove Tuesday]

Ash Wednesday

All About Lent

Kids and Holiness: Making Lent Meaningful to Children

59 posted on 02/26/2006 9:32:49 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation


Matt. 9:15; Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35 - many non-Catholics frown upon the Church's pious practice of fasting, and say that fasting went away after the resurrection of Christ. But Jesus Himself says that His followers will fast once He is gone and does not object.

Matt. 6:16-18 - in fact, Jesus even gives instructions on how to fast. Jesus says, "Do not look dismal like the hypocrites, but look clean and refreshed."

Matt. 17-21; Mark 9:29 - Jesus teaches that only prayer and fasting had special power to cure a man possessed by a demon. Jesus teaches about the efficacy of fasting and how fasting, coupled with prayer, is acceptable and pleasing to God.

Luke 2:37 - Anna the widow worshiped God with fasting and prayer night and day. The Church has always taught that, by virtue of our priesthood conferred in baptism, our fasting participates in the priesthood of Christ by atoning for the temporal punishments due to our and other people’s sins.

Acts 13:2-3; 14:23 - the apostles engaged in prayer and fasting in connection with ordaining leaders of the Church. Prayer and fasting have always been the practice of the Church.

1 Tim. 4:3 - when Paul refers to doctrines that require abstinence from foods, some Protestants refer to this verse to condemn the Catholic Church's practice of fasting. But Paul is referring to abstinence and any other practice that is performed apart from Christ's teachings. Fasting, on the other hand, is done in obedience to Christ's teachings of taking up our cross and following Him, by participating in His sufferings so we can share in His glory. When citing this verse, these Protestants do not explain why Jesus prophesied that his followers would fast and why Jesus gave instructions on how to fast.

Ez. 8:21-23 - Ezra proclaims a fast as a prayer for humility and self-mortification and God responds. Our fasting is performed to remind us of our absolute reliance upon God.

Neh. 1:4; 9:1 - these texts also show the historical practice of fasting. Fasting atones for temporal punishment due to sin and repairs our relationship with God.

Tobit 12:8 - prayer is good when accompanied by fasting. Throughout salvation history, God has encouraged fasting to be coupled with prayer.

Judith 4:9-13 - the people of Israel humbled themselves with fasting and the Lord Almighty responds.

Esther 4:3,16 - people fasted for days to atone for sin. Although Jesus remits the eternal penalty of our sin, we can atone for temporal penalties due to our sin.

Psalm 35:13 - David says, "I afflicted myself with fasting." David recognized that fasting drew him closer to God. Fasting makes us aware of our dependency on God.

Psalm 69:10 - the Psalmist writes, "I humbled my soul with fasting." Fasting helps us become humble, and in our humility we unit ourselves with our humble God.

Jer. 36:9 - the peoples of Jerusalem and Judah declared a fast before the Lord.

Baruch 1:5 - they wept, fasted, and prayed before the Lord.

Dan. 9:3; 10:2-3 - Daniel sought God through fasting, and abstained from choice foods and wine for three weeks.

Joel 1:14; 2:12,15 - fasts are called to sanctify and turn oneself toward the Lord.

Jonah 3:5,10 - people of Nineveh proclaim a fast to appease God and God responds favorably.

1 Macc. 3:47; 2 Macc. 13:12 - Judas and his army fasted in prayer.

60 posted on 02/28/2006 10:21:21 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first previous 1-2021-4041-6061-76 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson