Fast and Abstinence
With the beginning of the Lent, the Church proclaims anew Christ’s call to penance and conversion of life. Joined with the universal Church as a sign to the world to heed the call of penance and conversion, we embrace the Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer. Lent from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday is a time for self-denial, charity and prayer.
The specific discipline of the Church in the United States regarding penitential days is:
- The days of fast and abstinence are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
- The other Fridays of Lent are Days of Abstinence.
Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast. By this obligation, the individual is permitted only one full meal a day. At the age of 14, people are obliged to abstain from the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat. The obligation to observe the laws of fast and abstinence substantially or as a whole is a serious obligation. The failure to observe one penitential day in itself is not considered serious. It is the failure to observe any penitential days at all, or a substantial number of days, which must be considered serious.
The obligation of receiving the Eucharist at least once a year should still be fulfilled during the period from the First Sunday of Lent, February 18 to Trinity Sunday, May 27.