Our Lady asks us to fast, especially on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Moderators: Andy08, mamamary

User avatar
By Flo
The Holy Season of Lent
Fast and Abstinence.

It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a
constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to
God, includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is
unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5;
Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38 ). Christ
Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk.
5:35). The general law of penance, therefore, is part of the law of
God for man.

The Church has specified certain forms of penance, both to ensure that
the Catholic will do something, as required by divine law, while
making it easy for Catholics to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983
Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics
[Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as
specified by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches].

Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are
penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according
to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on
Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence
and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the
Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year
are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of
fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors
and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law
of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Can. 1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more
precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in
whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance,
especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

The Church, therefore, has two forms of official penitential practices
- three if the Eucharistic fast before Communion is included.

Abstinence The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age
until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the
Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh
and organs of mammals and fowl. Moral theologians have traditionally
considered this also to forbid soups or gravies made from them. Salt
and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are
permitted, as are animal derived products such as margarine and
gelatin which do not have any meat taste.

On the Fridays outside of Lent the U.S. bishops conference obtained
the permission of the Holy See for Catholics in the US to substitute a
penitential, or even a charitable, practice of their own choosing.
Since this was not stated as binding under pain of sin, not to do so
on a single occasion would not in itself be sinful. However, since
penance is a divine command, the general refusal to do penance is
certainly gravely sinful. For most people the easiest way to
consistently fulfill this command is the traditional one, to abstain
from meat on all Fridays of the year which are not liturgical
solemnities. When solemnities, such as the Annunciation, Assumption,
All Saints etc. fall on a Friday, we neither abstain or fast.

During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the
United States as elsewhere, and it is sinful not to observe this
discipline without a serious reason (physical labor, pregnancy,
sickness etc.).

Fasting The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday
[Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday [i.e. the beginning of the 60th year,
a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday] to reduce the
amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal
a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed
the main meal in quantity. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday
and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by
drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk).
Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary
to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence Besides those outside
the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant
or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual
laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse
themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other
situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the
penitential discipline.

Aside from these minimum penitential requirements Catholics are
encouraged to impose some personal penance on themselves at other
times. It could be modeled after abstinence and fasting. A person
could, for example, multiply the number of days they abstain. Some
people give up meat entirely for religious motives (as opposed to
those who give it up for health or other motives). Some religious
orders, as a penance, never eat meat. Similarly, one could multiply
the number of days that one fasted. The early Church had a practice of
a Wednesday and Saturday fast. This fast could be the same as the
Church's law (one main meal and two smaller ones) or stricter, even
bread and water. Such freely chosen fasting could also consist in
giving up something one enjoys - candy, soft drinks, smoking, that
cocktail before supper, and so on. This is left to the individual.

One final consideration. Before all else we are obliged to perform the
duties of our state in life. When considering stricter practices than
the norm, it is prudent to discuss the matter with one's confessor or
director. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying
out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to
the will of God.

---- Colin B. Donovan, STL
User avatar
By OnASpiritualJourney2
Wonderful post Flo!

I remember a Saturday morning when my Grandmother was in her nineties. She was preparing breakfast and leaving out the usual orange juice and banana. I asked her why and she explained that she doesn't have fruit on Fridays (in addition to meat). I told her it was Saturday and she was so upset that she hadn't realized the day before was Friday. Anything we give up speaks loudly of our love for Our Lord.
User avatar
By Flo
Aww...bless her! She sounds like a wonderful woman. :)
User avatar
By OnASpiritualJourney2
Thanks Flo! She's been helping, from Heaven, to nudge me along in my stumbling journey for a couple of decades now. :D Her love of God was contagious and affected all who knew her.
User avatar
By bluecross

“He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2)

Dear Brothers and Sisters!

At the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition – prayer, almsgiving, fasting – to prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God’s power that, as we shall hear in the Paschal Vigil, “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride” (Paschal Præconium). For this year’s Lenten Message, I wish to focus my reflections especially on the value and meaning of fasting. Indeed, Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28.) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings 19,8.), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter.

We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting. In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gn 2, 16-17). Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence” (cf. Sermo de jejunio: PG 31, 163, 98.). Since all of us are weighed down by sin and its consequences, fasting is proposed to us as an instrument to restore friendship with God. Such was the case with Ezra, who, in preparation for the journey from exile back to the Promised Land, calls upon the assembled people to fast so that “we might humble ourselves before our God” (8,21). The Almighty heard their prayer and assured them of His favor and protection. In the same way, the people of Nineveh, responding to Jonah’s call to repentance, proclaimed a fast, as a sign of their sincerity, saying: “Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?” (3,9). In this instance, too, God saw their works and spared them.

In the New Testament, Jesus brings to light the profound motive for fasting, condemning the attitude of the Pharisees, who scrupulously observed the prescriptions of the law, but whose hearts were far from God. True fasting, as the divine Master repeats elsewhere, is rather to do the will of the Heavenly Father, who “sees in secret, and will reward you” (Mt 6,18.). He Himself sets the example, answering Satan, at the end of the forty days spent in the desert that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4,4). The true fast is thus directed to eating the “true food,” which is to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4,34). If, therefore, Adam disobeyed the Lord’s command “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,” the believer, through fasting, intends to submit himself humbly to God, trusting in His goodness and mercy.

The practice of fasting is very present in the first Christian community (cf. Acts 13,3; 14,22; 27,21; 2 Cor 6,5). The Church Fathers, too, speak of the force of fasting to bridle sin, especially the lusts of the “old Adam,” and open in the heart of the believer a path to God. Moreover, fasting is a practice that is encountered frequently and recommended by the saints of every age. Saint Peter Chrysologus writes: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself” (Sermo 43: PL 52, 320. 322).

In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning, and has taken on, in a culture characterized by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God. In the Apostolic Constitution Pænitemini of 1966, the Servant of God Paul VI saw the need to present fasting within the call of every Christian to “no longer live for himself, but for Him who loves him and gave himself for him… he will also have to live for his brethren“ (cf. Ch. I). Lent could be a propitious time to present again the norms contained in the Apostolic Constitution, so that the authentic and perennial significance of this long held practice may be rediscovered, and thus assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel (cf. Mt 22, 34-40).

The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord. Saint Augustine, who knew all too well his own negative impulses, defining them as “twisted and tangled knottiness” (Confessions, II, 10.18.), writes: “I will certainly impose privation, but it is so that he will forgive me, to be pleasing in his eyes, that I may enjoy his delightfulness” (Sermo 400, 3, 3: PL 40, 708). Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.

At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live. In his First Letter, Saint John admonishes: “If anyone has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, yet shuts up his bowels of compassion from him – how does the love of God abide in him?” (3,17). Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus (use discernment when discussing this group) est, 15). By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27), the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast (Didascalia Ap., V, 20,18.). This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent.

From what I have said thus far, it seems abundantly clear that fasting represents an important ascetical practice, a spiritual arm to do battle against every possible disordered attachment to ourselves. Freely chosen detachment from the pleasure of food and other material goods helps the disciple of Christ to control the appetites of nature, weakened by original sin, whose negative effects impact the entire human person. Quite opportunely, an ancient hymn of the Lenten liturgy exhorts: “Utamur ergo parcius, / verbis cibis et potibus, / somno, iocis et arctius / perstemus in custodia – Let us use sparingly words, food and drink, sleep and amusements. May we be more alert in the custody of our senses.”

Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see how the ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote, to make the complete gift of self to God (cf. Encyclical Veritatis splendor, 21). May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbour. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae, accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a “living tabernacle of God.” With these wishes, while assuring every believer and ecclesial community of my prayer for a fruitful Lenten journey, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

User avatar
By OnASpiritualJourney2
Beautiful letter Bluecross!

I really helped to understand more fully reasons for fasting. There is so much in the letter, but I really liked this part:

Saint Peter Chrysologus writes: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself” (Sermo 43: PL 52, 320. 322).

Thank you for posting Pope Benedict's letter!
User avatar
By Roberto Phoenix
Question: While I was listening to the gospel this past Ash Wednesday, the one which talks about fasting, I noticed something I haven't noticed before. Jesus says that "when you fast anoint your head and wash you face so that you may not appear to be fasting except to your father who is hidden. My question is have we forgotton about this part of fasting. I looked through alot of commentaries and everyone seems to have missed this part. My priest stated that the word used here may also be translated as "combing your hair" but most of my Greek dictionaries just say annoint. And what do we anoint ourselves with? Holy Oil? The greek word here is aleipho (from lipos-grease). Anybody want to go on a net search to help me find out?
User avatar
By OnASpiritualJourney2
I thought in our reading it said anoint your head with oil ... Because I remember thinking that today we'd think someone wasn't caring for themselves if their hair is oily, but back then, it must have had a different meaning. But whatever it is that they actually did, I think the point was to not look like you're fasting or "suffering". To keep up normal appearances.

The covid 19 virus is a terrible thing and I'm not[…]

Deleted post


With quarantines and stay-at-home orders becoming […]

March 25, 2020 "Dear children! I am with yo[…]