Fasting and Abstinence

Christ in the Wilderness, by Ivan Kramskoy, 1872

Matthew 4:1-2: Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.

Matthew 17:17-20: And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

In the time of Christ's Incarnation, practitioners of the Old Testament religion fasted or abstained on Mondays and Thursdays, but Christians opted to take Wednesdays (the day Our Lord was betrayed) and Fridays (the day Our Lord was crucified) as their penitential days.

Wednesdays and Fridays are still days of penance in most Eastern Catholic Churches (and among the Orthodox), but in the Roman Church, only Fridays, as memorials to the day our Lord was crucified, remain as weekly penitential days on which abstinence from meat and other forms of penance are expected as the norm. 1 From the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.

Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Check with your local Bishops to see what you are bound to in your area. (Most traditional Catholics keep the Friday abstinence whether bound to by their local Bishops or not).

Other penitential days are listed in the table below. In this table, I give the fasting and abstinence practices for those who, out of personal devotion, want to keep the older practices given for the Universal Church in 1962. I also give the requirements according to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which is what we are bound to.

Note that if any of the Fasting and/or Abstinence Days falls on a Sunday or a first class Feast outside of Lent, the requirements (except for the Eucharistic Fast) are totally abrogated. Those who need to be excused from the obligations of fasting and abstaining for medical reasons (pregnancy, the demands of extraordinarily hard labor, hypoglycemia, etc.) should speak with their priests for a dispensation. True charity trumps all law, and law exists to serve true charity!




In the Latin Church, abstinence means refraining from eating the meat from mammals or fowl, and soup or gravy made from them. Fish is allowed, hence Fridays are known as "Fish Fridays." Traditionally, the laws of abstinence apply to all aged 7 and over, but the new Code of Canon Law applies it to all who have completed their 14th year.

Partial Abstinence

Meat and soup or gravy made from meat may be eaten once a day at the principle meal.


Fasting is the taking of only one full meal (which may include meat) and two smaller, meatless meals that don't equal the large one meal. No eating between meals is allowed, but water, milk tea, cofee, and juices are OK. Meat is allowed at one meal (assuming abstience isn't also expected on a given day). Traditionally, everyone over 21 years of age and under 59 years of age is bound to observe the law of fast; but the present Code of Canon Law sets the ages of 18 and 59 as the limits.


Before receiving the Eucharist (the "Eucharistic Fast")

Traditional: nothing but water and medicines for three hours

1983 Code: nothing but water and medicines for 1 hour

All Fridays

Traditional: Abstain. American Catholics have a dispensation, from Pope Pius XII, to refrain from abstinence on the Friday following Thanksgiving Thursday.

1983 Code: To abstain is the universal law. Check with your local Bishops to learn what you are bound to.

Advent Embertide

Traditional: Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: abolished

Vigil of Christmas

Traditional: Abstain and Fast.

1983 Code: abolished

Ash Wednesday

Traditional: Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: Abstain and Fast

Lenten Embertide

Traditional: Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: abolished

All days of Lent but Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and 1st Class Feasts

Traditional: Partially Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: abolished

Fridays and Saturdays of Lent

Traditional: Abstain and fast
1983 Code: Abstain on Fridays (not Saturdays), even if you don't abstain on all other Fridays

Good Friday

Traditional: Abstain and Fast
1983 Code: Abstain and Fast

Holy Saturday

Traditional: Abstain and Fast until the noon (after the Vigil Mass, to be more precise, which nowadays is most often at night)

1983 Code: abolished

Vigil of the Pentecost

Traditional: Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: abolished

Whit Embertide

Traditional: Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: abolished

Michaelmas Embertide

Traditional: Abstain and Fast

1983 Code: abolished

To follow the traditional path, it might be easier to follow through on these disciplines if one just decides to fast and abstain on all the days mentioned. Remembering simply to "eat no more than one regular meatless meal and two smaller meatless meals that don't equal the larger meal on all the days marked on my calendar -- and no snacking!" is a lot easier than trying to memorize that chart!

Note that in following these disciplines designed to make one mindful of Christ's sacrifice, to put the world into perspective, and to discipline the body, true charity trumps every other law; Catholics are not Pharisees. In other words, if you are asked to a sit-down dinner at a Protestant's house on Friday, and the host, unaware of Catholic practices, has worked hard to prepare a huge roast beef, eat the beef and shut up (unless you believe this person, upon learning of the discipline, would, say, see your having eaten the meat as a sign of Catholic weakness or hypocrisy and it would cause scandal or something. In other words, weigh the situation and show the Love of Christ).

This same charity applies to yourself: if you truly forget that it's "Fish Friday" and you find yourself eating a big, juicy steak, stop eating the steak and don't beat yourself up over what you've already eaten. If the will isn't involved, there is no culpability (though one should pay better attention next week!).

Why should we fast?

We fast for many reasons. Even if there were no other reason to fast, we fast out of obedience: Our Lord and His Apostles tell us to. We also fast to discipline the body so that we can focus more intently on the spiritual. And we fast to do penance. This last reason is described well by Pope Clement XIII in his "Appetente Sacro," written in 1759. In this document, he exhorts his Bishops to explain to their flocks the reasons for fasting:

You will begin most appropriately, and with hope of the greatest profit, to recall men to the observance of the holy law of fasting, if you teach the people this: penance for the Christian man is not satisfied by withdrawing from sin, by detesting a past life badly lived, or by the sacramental confession of these same sins. Rather, penance also demands that we satisfy divine justice with fasting, almsgiving, prayer, and other works of the spiritual life. Every wrongdoing -- be it large or small -- is fittingly punished, either by the penitent or by a vengeful God. Therefore we cannot avoid God's punishment in any other way than by punishing ourselves. If this teaching is constantly implanted in the minds of the faithful, and if they drink deeply of it, there will be very little cause to fear that those who have discarded their degraded habits and washed their sins clean through sacramental confession would not want to expiate the same sins through fasting, to eliminate the concupiscence of the flesh. Besides, consider the man who is convinced that he repents of his sins more firmly when he toes not allow himself to go unpunished. That man, already consumed with the love of penance, will rejoice during the season of Lent and on certain other days, when the Church declares that the faithful should fast and gives them the opportunity to bring forth worthy fruits of penance.

The Proper attitude when fasting

St. John Chrysostom, in this excerpt from Homily III of his "Homilies on the Statues," summed it up well:

7. ...We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession. Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveller boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest. So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travellers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveller. Hence St. Paul saith, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole armour of God." Hast thou observed the wrestler? Hast thou observed the soldier? If thou art a wrestler, it is necessary for thee to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behoves thee to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell thee. Divest thyself of worldly business, and thou hast become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual armour, and thou hast become a soldier. Strip thyself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe thyself with the spiritual armour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow. Cultivate thy soul. Cut away the thorns. Sow the word of godliness. Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and thou hast become a husbandman. And Paul will say to thee, "The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. He too himself practised this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, "I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase." Sharpen thy sickle, which thou hast blunted through gluttony--sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on. And how mayest thou be able to do these things? By subduing thy body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance. Keep down the waves of inordinate desires. Repel the tempest of evil thoughts. Preserve the bark; display much skill, and thou hast become a pilot. But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.

8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. "For the wrestler," it is said, "is not crowned unless he strive lawfully." To the end then, that when we have gone through the labour of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards when down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that thou mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it. The Ninevites fasted, and won the favour of God. The Jews fasted too, and profited nothing, nay they departed with blame. Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not "run uncertainly," nor "beat the air," nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow. Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskillfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as varous other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honour fasting; for the honour of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works! Is it said by what kind of works? If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him! If thou seest an enemy, be reconciled to him! If thou seest a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies. Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, but ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties. For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Dost thou not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes. Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. "Thou shalt not receive a false report," it says.

1 During Embertides, the traditional practice is to revert to the older pattern of abstaining and fasting on Wednesdays in addition to Fridays. Saturdays are added, too, during these times.

Reference: Fisheaters,

Nobody is crying


 If there were no more priests hardly anyone would be crying about it. This is the sad statement that we have to make

We are witnessing the greatest crisis of the priesthood in the history of the Church. Whole areas in Europe are now without priests and all is hushed up. You do not even hear a single bishop raise the alarm, weeping with the faithful, asking everyone to pray intensely for priestly vocations and ordering fasting with ardent supplications that the Lord may have mercy on His people.

It is true, you will hear bishops and heads of curia describing the numbers of this dizzying drop in the presence of priests in the Church. You will hear them calmly - too calmly – drawing up a list of the information in a detached manner as if it were a situation to accept just as a matter of course - in fact, the chance for a new Church – more of the people.

In the coming years, in Italy, land of Christian antiquity, we will witness the disappearance of parishes and some [radical] changes, unthinkable even a few years ago, in the simplest structures of Catholicism, of parish communities, where Christian life was [once] natural for everyone. But the absolute majority of busy Catholics will pretend nothing is happening, because their pastors are already doing so.

It is a “ catastrophe”, an “earthquake” - but nobody is crying about it – there is a pretence that nothing is happening. There is a pretence that nothing is happening because the fairytale of the Council’s “springtime” must continue. Any historical verification and evidence of a crisis without precedent are denied.

And a less than Catholic-like future is being prepared for us.

“Restructuring” the organization of Christian communities is already being discussed, i.e. creating space for the lay people (as if they never had enough of it in these past years) and a new type of Christian faithful is being invented who will become the administrators in the parishes and will replace the priests. Lay faithful, duly “clericalized”, will maintain the churches and while waiting for a Mass, they, like adult Christians, will do the preaching of the Word...

...yet nobody is crying about it - nobody is praying and crying out to God.

Perhaps they are not crying out because someone has been preparing this upheaval in the Church for some years now. They have debased the Catholic priesthood, transforming priests from men of God into social workers for the community. They have reduced the breviary and prayer. They have imposed secular dress so that the priests are like everyone else. Priests were told to keep up with the times because the world was moving forward. They were also told not to stress their own importance, but to share their responsibilities with the faithful.

And the final blow: priests were given a Mass that has become the preparation for the catastrophe in the Church. No longer deep prayer; no longer adoration of God Who is present. There is no longer intimate union with the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, but, instead, there is a holy supper with the community. Everything is centered on man - not on God - and a lot of extenuating talk about building community. It is a Mass which is a constant coming and going of lay people on and off the altar, a training for that coming and going of ladies and gentlemen who will shortly be running our ex-parishes without priests.

With the “worldly” Mass, the universal priesthood of the lay faithful has been cultivated and its meaning twisted. The baptized are a priestly people inasmuch as they offer themselves in sacrifice, in union with Christ crucified, offering all of their life with Jesus. The faithful must sanctify themselves; this is the universal priesthood of the baptized. The faithful do not participate in the Holy Orders of the priesthood, which are of an other nature and conform to the Priesthood of Christ. It is through the Sacrament of Holy Orders that Christ renders Himself present in the grace of the sacraments. If there were no more priests, both the Church and the grace of the sacraments would come to an end.

Martin Luther and Protestantism did exactly this: they destroyed the Catholic priesthood by saying that everyone was a “priest”, underlining specifically the universal priesthood of the laity.

In the matter of restructuring parishes, things might end up like that.

It might have been different to confront this crisis with minds and hearts holding the priesthood in high esteem, with the knowledge that the priest is one of the greatest gifts for the Church and all people. But this has not been the case. The crisis will be dealt with after years of total confusion in the lives of the clergy; after years of being unaccustomed to daily Mass and Catholic doctrine. So the faithful will do without the priest. This is already happening. And when a priest arrives, they will not have a clue what to do with him, having become accustomed to the belief that the Lord will save them without priests and sacraments.

We think it is not right to pretend that nothing is happening.

This is the reason we are asking our faithful to pray fervently to the Lord, so that He will grant a lot of priests to His Church, as He once did.

Dear faithful, in this month of June, which is the time dedicated to Holy Orders, let us have the courage to ask for this grace, even with tears, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

And let us cling to the most precious gift of the Mass of all time – the Mass of Tradition. It is only this Mass that will give new priests to the Church of the Lord.

[Editorial: Radicati nella fede, June 2013, bulletin of the Catholic community of Domodossola and Vocogno, Diocese of Novara, Italy - Translation and tip: Contributor Francesca Romana]

  The History of the Patron Saints of our Cathedral

 PETER, formerly called Simon, from Bethsaida in Galilee, was a son of Jonas and a brother of Andrew, by whom he was brought to Christ. After the great draught of fishes, when our Lord said to him and Andrew: Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men, Peter followed the Saviour constantly, from whom he received the most tender proofs of love. Peter was present when Christ appeared in His glory on Mount Thabor, when He raised the daughter of Jairus to life, and when He sweat blood in the agony on Mount Olivet. Peter was also present at the miraculous draught of fishes, which was a figure of the multitudes which he was to bring, by means of the holy Gospel, to the kingdom of God, for Christ called him a fisher of men, and afterwards, because Peter recognized and professed Him to be the Son of the living God, Christ named him Peter, made him the head of the apostles and of the entire Church, made him His vicar and visible representative upon earth, promising to build His Church upon him as upon a rock, gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and commanded him to feed His lambs and His sheep. Peter loved our Lord above all things; because of his love he wished to remain with Christ upon Mount Thabor to prevent Him from suffering, and in his love desired to die with Christ. He certainly showed the greatest courage when Christ was taken, following Him even into the house of Caiphas. But alas, the instability of man! There Peter three times denied the Lord. But the look of forgiving love which Jesus cast upon him, forced from him tears of the deepest contrition. He atoned for his denial by suffering much for Christ. Under the Emperor Nero he was crucified for his faith at Rome, and by his own request with his head downwards, because he did not consider himself worthy to die like Christ.

PAUL, before his conversion called Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, was born at Tarsus in Cilicia, and was a pupil of Gamaliel. As he had the most zealous attachment for the Jewish law, he was exasperated against the Christians. However, when hastening to Damascus to persecute them, he was converted by the Lord on the way and called to be an apostle. His unwearied labors in the vineyard of the Lord after his conversion, the sufferings which he endured upon his apostolic journeys, and the dangers and persecutions through which he passed in different countries, cannot be described. The zeal and constancy with which he confessed and preached the faith, though in chains and fetters, though scourged and beaten, in hunger and thirst, and through innumerable dangers, are almost incredible. He was so humble that he regarded himself as the least of the apostles, and thanked God fervently that He considered him worthy to suffer for His sake. After he had fought a good fight and finished his course, having everywhere zealously preached the faith, and still more zealously practiced it, he won the crown of justice. On the same day and at the same place in Rome, in which Peter was crucified, he was beheaded, by command of the Emperor Nero. Thus God tries and rewards true virtue. Paul in his life, as after death, worked numberless miracles; even his handkerchief, like St. Peter's shadow, healed sickness and expelled devils. He had so deeply impressed the name of Jesus in his heart, that it was almost continually on his lips, for "out of the fulness of the heart, the mouth speaketh."

Angels We Have Heard On High.mp3