Lenten reminders on fasting, abstinence from meat

A few Lenten reminders, courtesy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):

  • Roman Catholics are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22) and Good Friday (April 7).

“No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation on the Wednesday which solemnly opens the Lenten season and that Friday called ‘Good’ because on that day Christ suffered in the flesh and died for our sins,” according to the USCCB’s Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence.

If possible, a Good Friday fast should extend until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night), the bishops said. The “paschal fast” honors the suffering and death of Jesus and prepares the faithful to share more fully in the celebration of the Resurrection.

  • Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday is obligatory for people ages 18 to 59. Fasting consists of eating one full meal and two smaller ones that together do not equal a full meal.
  • Abstaining from meat is obligatory on all Fridays during Lent for those 14 and over – unless a solemnity (such as the Solemnities of St. Joseph or the Annunciation) falls on a Friday.
  • This year, no solemnities fall on a Friday. But Archbishop George J. Lucas has granted a dispensation for those who wish to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, which will be on a Friday this year.
  • In addition to the obligatory fasting from food, other forms of fasting are encouraged throughout Lent.

“For the Christian, fasting is ultimately about fasting from sin,” said Father Daniel Merz in “A Reflection on Lenten Fasting” on the USCCB website.

Fasting helps people realize their dependence on God, helps prepare them for the Eucharist and other sacraments and frees resources to give to the poor, Father Merz said.

Additional forms of fasting might mean turning away from the sins of excessive alcohol use, gossip or pornography, for example.

Fasting from things that are not necessarily sinful also can be fruitful. Giving up television, social media or other worldly attachments might free up more time for prayer and acts of charity, including spending time with family, visiting a loved one or volunteering.

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