Fasting & Abstinence Regulations

Feb 5, 2013

As a common penance, abstinence from (mammal or bird) meat is to be observed by all Catholics 14 years and older on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays throughout the year (on Fridays outside Lent, another equivalent penance may be substituted).  This obligation prohibits the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat.

For the Church in the United States, fasting means limiting oneself to one full meal on a given fast day.  Catholics who are at least 18 years of age but not yet 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On fast days, two additional smaller meals are permitted if necessary to maintain strength. However, the two smaller meals together may not equal one full meal. Moreover, eating solid foods between meals on fast days is not permitted.  (Canons 1250-1253)

In addition to those outside the age limits, the sick or frail of mind or body, pregnant or nursing women and manual laborers according to their need, guests who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense, and anyone who seriously would be hindered in carrying out their duties are excused from fasting and, if need be, from abstinence (substituting an equivalent penance).