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Fasting and Abstinence


Generally, the laws of fasting require that on the designated days the person eat just one full meal, two smaller meals, and avoid eating between meals. Abstinence laws require that the person avoid meat altogether.


The regulations governing abstinence from meat apply to all Catholics age fourteen and older. Adults who have completed their eighteenth year until the beginning of their sixtieth year are bound by the regulations that govern fasting. Pregnant women and sick people are excused from the regulations.

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of both fasting and abstinence; all other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence only.


In addition, the Church encourages its adult members to observe some form of penance, perhaps including some kind of fast or abstinence, on all Fridays throughout the year.


The Church also calls for fasting prior to receiving Communion during the Mass. In this case, the fast helps us prepare our mind and heart for the great gift of the Eucharist by doing something physical to help us focus our attention. Church laws call for us to avoid all food and drink, with the exception of water and medicine, for one hour before receiving Communion. Again, this regulation does not apply to sick people or others for whom such restrictions would jeopardize health.


--From Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth, 2004


A brief summary of the history and importance of fasting during Lent.

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