Thursday, February 11, 2016


These are the current laws for the Lenten Fasting and Abstinence. They amount to almost nothing!

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. This applies to those 18-59. One full meal is permitted and two other snacks which combined are less than a full meal. No eating between meals.

Each Friday of Lent beginning at the age of 14 one must abstain from flesh meat (pork, beef, chicken and meat products) on Ash Wednesday and each Friday of Lent.  (Canon Law has this weak codicil, that Catholics must do some form of penance each Friday of Lent--how many of us do?)

But this was Church Law when Catholics were Catholic:

Laws of fast apply to those 21 to 59 inclusive. Each day of lent is a fast day except for Sunday. One full meal and two smaller snacks which combined are less than a full meal.

Laws of Days of Abstinence apply starting at age 7. Complete abstinence all Fridays of the year and Ash Wednesday. 

To be sure, dispensations were granted to people to observe a more relaxed fast during lent. This especially applied to pregnant women, those who did manual labor and a variety of others.

Today, we hear absolutely nothing about fasting and abstinence from the Magisterium. It would seem to me that both would have been a wonderful match for the Year of Mercy and the penance we must do for our sins.

Perhaps the Eastern Orthodox will open the eyes of the pope and bishops in union with him when they have their Great Council later this year. One of the main topics for this Council is fasting.

I find it unfortunate that our pope and bishops do not realize the great community builder it was for all Catholics to abstain all Fridays of the year with special dispensations for those Fridays that were solemnities or held special secular significance as far as food is concerned.  It helped to solidify our Catholic identity even with nominal Catholics.

And fasting each day of Lent, except for Sundays, really made lent a pungent season of penance!

Deacon Kandra contrasts the wimpy Latin Rite's fast during Lent to that of the Orthodox. WOW! WE ARE WIMPS!

Great Lent is the longest and strictest fasting season of the year.

Week before Lent (“Cheesefare Week”): Meat and other animal products are prohibited, but eggs and dairy products are permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday.

First Week of Lent: Only two full meals are eaten during the first five days, on Wednesday and Friday after the Presanctified Liturgy. Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening, the longest time without food in the Church year. (Few laymen keep these rules in their fullness). For the Wednesday and Friday meals, as for all weekdays in Lent, meat and animal products, fish, dairy products, wine and oil are avoided. On Saturday of the first week, the usual rule for Lenten Saturdays begins (see below).

Weekdays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: The strict fasting rule is kept every day: avoidance of meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil.

Saturdays and Sundays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: Wine and oil are permitted; otherwise the strict fasting rule is kept.

Holy Week: The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After St. Basil’s Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is sometimes broken on Saturday night after Resurrection Matins, or, at the latest, after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.

Wine and oil are permitted on several feast days if they fall on a weekday during Lent. Consult your parish calendar. On Annunciation and Palm Sunday, fish is also permitted.

Face it. Relatively speaking, when it comes to fasting, we’re wimps.


Gene said...

Speaking of laws and abstinence, the Vatican says that Bishops do not have to report clerical child molestation to the police. Hey, I love how the Church is really going after perverts and pederasts. But, really, who are we to judge...

Anonymous said...

Gene: If that is the case, can we get Bishop Finn restored to his diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph? He was removed because he didn't call the police when he learned of a priest looking at kid porn on the computer. He DID remove the priest from any contact with children and from any unsupervised computer use, and when the priest violated the rule, he reported him to the police. If he had done what Law and Mahony and all the other bishops did in such circumstances and just transferred him, he'd still have his old job!

But selective enforcement led, as we all know, to his forced resignation. Of course we all know the REAL reason he was ousted, but we won't go there.

Cletus Ordo said...

I still abstain from meat all year long on Fridays except the Friday after Thanksgiving (I THINK we're dispensed that day) and if Friday falls on Christmas. If nothing else, it's a good witness. If you are eating out with others and they notice you do not order meat, you can tell them why and start a conversation on the faith. Plus, it's just easier. I believe that we are still require to make some kind of sacrifice or self-denial on Fridays and abstaining from meat seems to be the simplest course rather than having to think of something else every week. The self-denial and penance I think has something to do with Purgatory--you remember, Purgatory, don't you? I guess most of us aren't going there since no one believes in it any more, but last time I checked, it was still a dogma. Doesn't matter. We'll get a watered down homily on it next November 2. We don't want to hurt anyone's itty bitty feewings.

Mark Thomas said...

Based upon the following thoughts of his, unless he's undergone a stunning change of heart and mind in regard to fasting, I wouldn't expect His Holiness Pope Francis to restore any sense of serious fasting and abstinence to the Church.

From Vatican Radio:

Pope Francis recalled how “Pius XII freed us from the very heavy cross that was the Eucharistic fast”:

“But some of you might remember. You couldn’t even drink a drop of water. Not even that! And to brush your teeth, it had to be done in such a way that you didn’t swallow the water. But I myself as a young boy went to confession for having made the Communion, because I thought a drop of water had gone in. Is it true or no? It’s true.

"When Pius XII changed the discipline: ‘Ah, heresy! No! He touched the discipline of the Church.’ So many Pharisees were scandalized. So many. Because Pius XII had acted like Jesus: he saw the need of the people. ‘But the poor people, with such warmth.’ These priests who said three Masses, the last at one o’clock, after noon, fasting.

"The discipline of the Church. And these Pharisees [spoke about] ‘our discipline’ – rigid on the outside, but, as Jesus said of them, ‘rotting in the heart,’ weak, weak to the point of rottenness. Gloomy in the heart.”

“This is the drama of these people,” and Jesus denounces hypocrisy and opportunism:"


Mark Thomas

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

MT, the apologetic that Pope Francis about the relaxation of the Fast and basing the law on this, which I presume he believes to be small minded, is from the playbook of the 1970's which His Holiness took hook, line and sinker and hasn't looked backed to the ideology of that period from the perspective of 2016.

The strict Orthodox fast is presented as an ideal but I do not believe that breaking the fast for them is punishable by the fires of eternal hell.

The fear I had of not swallowing toothpaste as a child was very real to if I were to go to Holy Communion after doing so. The fear of the Host which often stuck to the roof of one's mouth and we were told if we didn't swallow the Host prior to it dissolving there was some sin in that too was a bit much from our 2016 perspective.

His Holiness in many ways remains in a 1970's time warp and hasn't changed from that period.

But what these silly things did was to heighten our awareness of the Sacred and the proper disposition to the Almighty, in fear and trembling. We have lost that today and that is sad.

Anonymous said...

Imagine, the Angel of the Lord (Gabriel ?) appears at the doors of Casa Santa Marta in the near future. Not incognito but in some way manifesting his angelic nature and proving to one and all as the true representative of the Trinity.

Now imagine, the Pope's and the rest of the Church hierarchy's reaction to the Ambassador. I can not imagine the audience of Angel Gabriel with the Holy Father, broadcast by Vatican and other major TV networks, as a happy event. Should the Ambassador want to replace certain officials, whom would he pick as replacements?

Of course, a Church Council (V-3) would be called immediately. What would be on the Agenda? The parable of the talents comes to mind as the only agenda for the Council.

There would be special guests for the occasion. How about the 12 Apostles plus St. Paul? Maybe some of the Fathers of the Church? Certainly, Athanasius should receive and invitation. The year of Mercy would have to be put on hold as the Year of Accountability/Repentance immediately be given logical precedence. Come to think of it, that is how it should have been done in the first place. Unjustified presumption on the Mercy of God is a sin itself, no? Do we not have to confess first, resolve to sin no more to receive absolution?

Our modern Church leadership not only failed to trade well with the talents entrusted to them, but managed to squander the few remaining left over from the previous age at the pub Modernism: getting inebriated on relativism and paying dearly for the seductive favors of secularism.

Even if Gabriel does not come is't it time to change course while we still may?

Victor W said...

Hmmm....Rumours are circulating during Lent that Jesus actually fasted for 40 days and 40 nights for prayer. But, then, He was God, so Catholics certainly should not even try to come close. After all, the Church is about the PEOPLE of God, not (just) God.

Mark Thomas said...

Father McDonald, I hope that the upcoming Eastern Orthodox discussion on fasting (unless they weaken their fasting discipline) spurs Rome to consider the terrible state of Catholic fasting and abstinence practices.

However, as this is the Holy Year of Mercy, and given his comments upon the pre-Vatican II Eucharistic "fast", I find it difficult to believe that strengthening fasting and abstinence practices is of interest to His Holiness Pope Francis. However, in fairness to Pope Francis, it was Pope Venerable Pius XII who weakened the Church's sense of fasting.

Anyway, the climate of the Church today is such that Churchmen who wished to restore among us some sense of authentic fasting and abstinence would be labeled "rigid" and "unmerciful".


Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

Father, Great Lent is stricter than your understanding. You need to look up the Cheesefare and Meatfare rules!

TJM said...

Because left-wing loonism and personal self-aggrandizement was running rampant after the Council. Just like the World, "if it feels good, do it." I could have pulled a decade out of a hat and it would have been a better one for holding Vatican Disaster II than the 1960s

Carol H. said...

Jesus said that some demons can only be cast out by prayer and fasting. If we are fasting less and taking fasting less seriously now, is it any wonder why Catholics no longer recognize sin?

Mark Thomas said...

From the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Reaction to the Agenda of the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church

The Agenda

Topics 1-3. "The first three topics (fasting regulations, impediments to marriage, calendar) involve practical issues which deserve the attention of the Orthodox Churches. They are a fitting subject of a Great Council both because a common solution to these issues would enhance the daily life of the Orthodox Christians, and because they offer to the Council the opportunity for reflection on religious issues in the context of today's world.

Topic 1. "We understand that some changes in fasting practices are advisable in view of the changing conditions and rhythm of life on some geographical areas of the Orthodox Church. It is now altogether clear, because of insufficient study, what has been the result of the changes pertaining to fasting regulations within the Roman Catholic Church.

"This should provide basis for the exercise of caution in the matter of proposed changes within the Orthodox Church. Disciplinary changes pertaining to fasting practices do not automatically bring about the hoped for spiritual fruits without careful preaching and instruction about the reasons for these adaptations. Another question to be raised with regard to these changes is to what extent common practices are necessary to preserve the unity of the church.

"Finally, discussion about fasting practices should, above all, seriously raise the question of the proper Christian attitudes toward the material world, modern consumerism, availability of foods, modern hedonism, ecology, religious discipline in contemporary society, and the like."


Mark Thomas

gob said...

You really don't need written rules and regulations in order to fast and abstain. Feel free to do it as often and as vigorously as you wish...on your own. And don't worry about the tooth paste. You're a grown-up now.

Mark Thomas said...

I am sorry that I had failed to note that the reaction of the USCCB to the Orthodox Council was dated September 29, 1977 A.D. Therefore, as far back as 1977 A.D., our bishops noted that "what has been the result of the changes pertaining to fasting regulations within the Roman Catholic Church"..."should provide basis for the exercise of caution in the matter of proposed changes within the Orthodox Church. Disciplinary changes pertaining to fasting practices do not automatically bring about the hoped for spiritual fruits..."

Nearly 40 years later, our bishops have not repaired the terrible collapse of Catholic fasting and abstinence practices.


Mark Thomas

TJM said...

gob, people like you preach being "grown up" when it comes to religion, but then quickly revert to being "babycakes" when feasting on government dependence! You're always good for a laugh

John Nolan said...

On fasting and abstinence, there are a number of things to be taken into account. Firstly, the interpretation of fasting (only one full meal a day) is now the norm for working people, i.e. skimpy and rushed breakfast, quick sandwich (if that) for lunch. I can claim to do that every working day.

Friday abstinence (from meat) was abolished in England and Wales over 40 years ago. Five years ago it was reinstated. Many traditionalist Catholics had continued with Friday abstinence. Those who had not would have preferred something more meaningful, e.g. the reinstatement of the 3-hour Eucharistic fast. In any case they have long since given up on the Bishops' Conference, with good reason.

The Catholic culture which encouraged these practices no longer exists. If I have control over menus I will schedule fish on Friday (although lobster Thermidor beats a big Mac any day) but if invited out I will eat what I am given. We have enough trouble with vegetarians and their holier-than-thou attitudes to want to be tarred with the same brush.

However, to be abstemious on the day before a great feast, or even on a Saturday, does give added meaning to the celebration. In the Roman Rite most vigils are penitential; in the Novus Ordo none are.