Guidelines on Fasting 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… 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. Whether it is fasting, abstaining or other acts of penance, the whole desire we should have is to use these means to help us grow closer to our Lord and prepare ourselves "to celebrate the paschal mystery with minds and hearts renewed." (First Preface of Lent)
- Fasting: It means that one eats only one full meal in a day, with no food in-between meals. It is understood that two other meals, if one eats three meals a day, should not total one full meal.
- Abstinence: refers to refraining from meat (or another type of food). Its purpose is to be an act of penance - an act of sacrifice that helps us grow in freedom to make much bigger sacrifices. Part of our abstaining from meat can place us in solidarity with so many of our sisters and brothers around the world.
1. Abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Good Friday).
2. Abstinence from eating meat or another food is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are liturgical solemnities or Chinese festivities. Outside Lent the observance of fast and abstinence can be substituted in whole or in part for other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety (Way of the Cross, Rosary, Bible reading…)
3. The norms concerning abstinence are binding upon persons from age 14 onwards.
4. All adults (from the 18th birthday) 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.
5. Excused from fast or abstinence are those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to the need of nourishment… Aside from this, Catholics are encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other times…