Fasting and Abstinence During Lent
During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seeking the Lord in prayer and
reading Scripture, to service by giving alms, and to practice self-control through fasting.
Ash Wednesday (Feb, 26, 2020) and Good Friday (April 10, 2020) are obligatory days
of fasting and abstinence for all Catholics. In addition, all of the Fridays during Lent are
obligatory days of abstinence.
For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age
18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two
smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.
The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon all members of the Latin
Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows,
sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence
does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as
chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces,
as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not
forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain
from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs,
which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and
freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are
permitted.
In addition to those outside the age limits, the following are excused from fast and
abstinence: the physically or mentally ill, including individuals suffering from chronic
illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women. In all cases,
common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health
by fasting.
– from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops