Fast & Abstinence Guidelines
What is fasting and abstinence? Fasting means reducing the total amount of food we normally eat in day for the sake of drawing closer to God in prayer. Abstinence means doing without a particular food, such as meat, in order to focus our thoughts more toward God.
When Do We Fast or Abstain? Fasting and abstinence can be practiced anytime during the year. In Lent however, there is a prescribed discipline that the Church calls all of us to follow.
Fasting and Abstinence in Lent: Fasting (along with abstinence) is one of the three traditional disciplines of Lent. The other two are prayer and “alms-giving” (sharing the blessings we have received). These disciplines increase our focus on God and his Kingdom as we prepare for the annual remembrance of the acts by Christ saves us.
On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday all Catholics from age 18 to 59 are called to a day of fasting. On these two days we eat only one full meal (usually in the evening) plus two smaller meals that “together are not equal to one full meal”. There is no limitation on drinking of water, juices etc. No between-meal snacks.
On all Fridays during Lent anyone 14 years or older is called to abstain from meat. Eggs and dairy products are not considered meat.
In all cases, common sense should prevail. No one should jeopardize their health by fasting or abstinence. Those who are ill, have a chronic health condition, pregnant, or nursing an infant, are excused from this Lenten discipline.