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The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence ^ | 02-18-02 | Colin B. Donovan, STL

Posted on 02/19/2004 9:49:26 PM PST by Salvation

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 for her part 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 of one hour 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. Also forbidden are 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. They must do some penitential/charitable practice on these Fridays. For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere.

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 to be 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. 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

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KEYWORDS: abstinence; ashwednesday; catholiclist; fast; goodfriday; holysaturday; holythursday; lent; triduum
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The Holy Season of Lent is fast approaching. Ash Wednesday is next Wednesday, February 25th.

Prepare for the season of Lent by talking over these thoughts and ideas about Fast and Abstinence with your family.

Then make a family decision about what you will do in accordance with the Rules for Fast and Abstinence in your family.

1 posted on 02/19/2004 9:49:27 PM PST by Salvation
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; nickcarraway; SMEDLEYBUTLER; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; attagirl; ...
Lenten Journey Ping!

Please notify me via Freepmail if you would like to be added to or removed from the Lenten Journey Ping list.

2 posted on 02/19/2004 9:51:01 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
The three practices of Lent:




3 posted on 02/19/2004 9:52:52 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let you left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
(Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 NAB)
4 posted on 02/19/2004 9:54:17 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
** For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year.**

The U. S. Bishops are finally telling us we can abstain from meat on all Fridays!

5 posted on 02/19/2004 9:56:11 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
The Meaning of Lent

The rich, liturgical color of royal purple cloaks the season of Lent in its penitential vesture. Simplicity and austerity quietly whisper images of the barren desert. Flowers are absent, music is sparse and the church quietly, but firmly, heralds its reflective “time out.” Things have noticeably changed. As people and as church, we enter the time of serious penitential and baptismal reflection. We take stock and assess our growth in the Christian life. We ask ourselves, “Where is there need for healing and reconciliation in our lives?”

The Church teaches that “Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter. For the Lenten liturgy disposes both catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery: catechumens, through several stages of Christian initiation; the faithful, through reminders of their own baptism and through penitential practices” (GNLY #27).

Lent is a time of conversion, of metanoia, a complete turning away from sin into the living arms of our loving God. The Lenten season challenges us to…

* to hear and follow God’s call
* to take time to pray and seek God’s guidance in our lives.
* to turning more fully to God which includes turning in love toward our neighbors through acts of justice, compassion and service
* take time to consider our choices and to look at our relationships for ways to be more loving, more fair, more forgiving and more compassionate.
* take time to share God’s love through acts of service and justice.
* renew our belief in the Easter promise that we share in Jesus’ resurrection
* prepare for renewing our baptismal promises during the Easter liturgies
6 posted on 02/19/2004 9:59:51 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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All of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. As disciples, we seek to follow St. Paul’s call to “pray always.” Lent is a time when we concentrate our prayer on the double meaning of the season: conversion from our sinful ways and renewal of our baptismal promises.

Participating in the Eucharist and praying over the Scripture readings, on a weekly or even daily basis, are helpful ways of prayerfully entering into the season. Private prayer, family prayer and communal prayer all work together to deepen our prayer life, not only during this season, but also all year long

7 posted on 02/19/2004 10:01:11 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

Fasting is an integral part of Lent. Traditionally it has included reducing the amount of food we eat and abstaining from meat.

But why do we fast? Not because our bodies and appetites are something evil that need to be punished, but to allow our physical hunger to remind us of our spiritual hunger, our need for God. Our Lenten fasting is modeled on Jesus’ 40-day fast in the desert, Just as he fasted in preparation for his baptism in the Jordan and his public ministry, we fast to remind ourselves of our baptismal commitment and need for renewal.

Fasting can take many forms. While we usually fast by eating less, we can also fast from other things, whether they be enjoyable activities or bad habits.

The purpose of fasting is to turn our attention to both God and others. Fasting reminds us not only of our dependence on God, but also of the needs of the hungry and poor. By fasting, we place ourselves in solidarity with suffering people everywhere.

8 posted on 02/19/2004 10:02:15 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
While we usually fast by eating less, fasting can take many forms. Fasting can be holding back from unnecessary buying, accumulating, and wasting, from excessive TV viewing, etc. It can be an ecological fasting that fosters respect for natural resources and for all of creation. Any form of fasting can be a breaking from destructive patterns of life, freeing us to grow healthier in our thoughts and actions as Catholics.
9 posted on 02/19/2004 10:03:21 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

The prophet Isaiah tells us that God wants a fast which involves “releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own” (Isaiah 58:6-7, NAB). Almsgiving or service is an essential Lenten practice.

The Catholic Bishops of the United States emphasize that “our faith calls us to work for justice; to serve those in need; to pursue peace; and to defend the life, dignity, and rights of all our sisters and brothers. This is the call of Jesus, the challenge of the prophets, and the living tradition of our Church.” (A Century of Social Teaching. A Pastoral Message of Catholic Bishops of the United States. November 1990)

Lent is a time for repentance and action. We are called to service those in need and use our wealth, gifts, time, and talents to create a world that mirrors the vision that Jesus proclaimed.

10 posted on 02/19/2004 10:06:09 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
Some ideas for Praying, Fasting, Almsgiving:

--> fast from watching television one night each week so that you can spend time on a Lenten practice, such as praying, reading the Bible, serving others

--> fast from one movie during Lent and give the money… and the time in service to others

--> fast from using foul language and put-downs and start affirming the good in other people

--> fast from buying new things like clothes, music, magazines, or jewelry and make a donation…

--> fast from spending money on entertainment and make a donation of time or money that serves others

--> fast from holding resentments and start practicing forgiveness

--> from gossiping or being dishonest and start the practice of always being truthful and honest

--> fast from a favorite snack food or drink and set aside the money you would have spent to donate to a special charity

--> fast from being angry or upset with people who have hurt or offended you, and pray for the courage to forgive them

--> fast from feeling guilty and angry at yourself for things you have done wrong, instead remember God’s great love for you.

--> participate in Ash Wednesday services
--> participate in the Stations of the Cross during Lent
--> participate in the Lenten Sunday liturgies
--> participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent

--> read the Lenten Scripture readings through Lent; here’s a list for each week of Lent: (C)
(1) Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (Ash Wednesday)
(2) Luke 4:1-13 (1st Sunday)
(3) Luke 9:28b-36 (2nd Sunday)
(4) Luke 13:1-9 (3rd Sunday)
(5) Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 (4th Sunday)
(6) John 8:1-11 (5th Sunday)
(7) Luke 22:14:23-71, 23:1-56 (Passion Sunday)
(8) John 13:1-15 (Holy Thursday)
(9) John 18:1—19:42 (Good Friday)
(10) John 20:1-9 (Easter)

--> spend fifteen minutes a day praying during Lent: give thanks to God for all your blessings, prayer for a specific personal need prompted by the day's experience, and prayer for those who are in need or suffering in your community and the world

--> donate personal possessions, such as clothes, books, shoes, to people in need

--> dedicate time for service during Lent, e.g., working at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, helping people in your neighborhood such as the elderly.

--> donate food or money saved by fasting to the parish or community food pantry, food bank, or homeless shelter

--> cook a meal for the soup kitchen or homeless shelter, gather some friends to help

--> volunteer at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter or nursing home several hours per week during Lent

--> learn more about feeding the hungry by contacting Bread for the World, 1100 Wayne Ave., Suite 1000, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301-608-2400)

--> learn more about addressing human rights violations around the world by contacting Amnesty International, 322 8th Ave., New York, NY 10001; 212-807-8400 (

--> learn more about the ways you can help others around the world by contacting

--> volunteer to read books and magazines to the elderly who are no longer able to read

--> help others learn to how to read by becoming a literacy trainer or volunteer to tutor children

--> work to change the structures of injustice by joining the work of NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby at 801 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Washington, DC 20003-2167 (

--> work to overcome child sweatshops by supporting the work of Free the Children, which builds rehabilitation and educational centers for children freed from sweatshop labor, (FTP, 603 N. Oak St., Falls Church, VA 22046, 703-534-7045)

--> support the work of the hospice movement to provide compassionate low-cost, in-patient and at-home care for the terminally ill, contact the National Hospice Movement at 1-800-658-8898

--> give the gift of sight by donating old eyeglasses or unused frames to the local Lion’s Club who recycles them to the poor

--> support the national work of Covenant House as they house and care for homeless youth (P.O. Box 731, Times Square Station, NY, NY 10108-0731)

--> support the work of Project Clean Your Desk, which delivers pencils, paper and other supplies to resource-starved rural schools were children drop out because their families cannot afford these provisions. Organizing packets are available from Project Clean Your Desk, Quixote Center, Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD 20782 (301-699-0042)

Additional Lenten Ideas-->-->-->




List your own ideas with your family.
11 posted on 02/19/2004 10:12:57 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Please feel free to add additional information and ideas about the three practice of Lent --

12 posted on 02/19/2004 10:15:30 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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Comment #13 Removed by Moderator




What is "Lent," and how to find grace though it? From the

 pages of Our Sunday Visitor's 2004 Catholic Almanac, we learn:

"The penitential season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which occurs between Feb. 4 and Mar. 11, depending on the date of Easter, and lasts until the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Thursday). It has six Sundays. The sixth Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and is known as Passion (formerly called Palm) Sunday.

"The origin of Lenten observances dates back to the fourth century or earlier."

In addition, the Almanac explains the Easter season:

"The Easter Triduum begins with evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.

"… The Easter season, whose theme is resurrection from sin to the life of grace, lasts for 50 days, from Easter to Pentecost. Easter, the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, occurs between Mar. 22 and Apr. 25. The terminal phase of the Easter season, between the solemnities of the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost, stresses anticipation of the coming and action of the Holy Spirit."

As Catholics honor the crucified and risen Savior through liturgy and worship, our prayer is that, through the penitential time of Lent, we can find the grace we need to cast off sin, and rejoice in the light of Easter.

On this Lenten site, Our Sunday Visitor has gathered ideas, information, and resources to help make Lent more reverent, more meaningful, and more prayerful.

On this web site, you can:

Stations of the Cross

Learn about the Stations

Stations of the Cross from the USCCB

Liturgical Calendar

Make a Good Confession

Read Scripture (The Resurrection)

My Daily Visitor meditations


Pope John Paul II's
Lenten Messages

This Week of Salvation by James Monti

Lenten recipes

Lenten Family Activities

Download children's activities (PDF)

Try This! from Grace In Action

Contact us

Order from





14 posted on 02/19/2004 10:30:40 PM PST by Coleus (Help Tyler Schicke Burkitt's leukemia)
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To: wiclif
LOL! And the flip side is.............................?
15 posted on 02/19/2004 10:37:13 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Coleus
Thanks, Coleus, I like all the references there, too. I will post some more tomorrow. (Trying to get the first four Stations of the Cross tonight.)
16 posted on 02/19/2004 10:38:38 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation
I have been dooing this all my life I have never changed..
17 posted on 02/20/2004 1:08:09 AM PST by .45MAN
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To: Salvation
18 posted on 02/20/2004 1:20:45 AM PST by nickcarraway (
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To: Salvation
I have a questions:

Is it true that you're not supposed to fast or abstain on Sundays? I always have done so during Lent, but I've heard that Sundays are exempt.
19 posted on 02/20/2004 2:25:33 AM PST by BlessedBeGod
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To: Salvation
Could you help me get some information about Ash Wednesday?

I am a Protestant, but I spent much of my growth as a Christian in a church which observed Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. However, now I am currently in a Protastant church which doesn't celebrate hardly any of the traditional Christian calendar, and I would like to be able to give them some resourses on the history and importance of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and other traditional Christian observances that seem to be totally missing from this church.

many thanks in advance for your help


20 posted on 02/20/2004 2:59:10 AM PST by ponyespresso (simul justus et peccator)
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