Q&A: What are the guidelines for fasting and abstaining during Lent and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

All questions come from parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish or St. Joseph Mission and they are presented to you anonymously. Questions and answers were presented in the Series “Because You Asked” from 2016.
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What are the guidelines for fasting and abstaining during Lent and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?


All Catholics 14 yrs. And older must abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. All Catholics between the ages of 18-59 yrs, in addition to abstaining from meat, should fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In the Roman Catholic Rite, fasting is defined as eating only one, full, meatless meal. The other two meatless meals added together must be less than the one full meal in quantity. Those who are 60 yrs or older are dispensed from fasting. However, just because one is not required to fast does not mean that they are prohibited from doing so. If you are older but healthy you may still opt to fast. The sick are dispensed from such requirements. If you work in a job that is intensely physical and do not think you can fast as a result, you may seek out your pastor and ask for a dispensation. If you want your fasting experience to truly take on a spiritually powerful form you should be sure to accompany your fasting with prayer, strive not to have a long face about it and donate to the poor the money you would have used for food normally. In this way you will be hitting all three pillars of the Lenten journey: Prayer, Fasting and Alms Giving. Put another way, fasting should not just be making you feel miserable. It should lead you to have a greater empathy for the poor and to being a holier person. Last of all, let me add that among the recommended list of activities for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis lists having a more intense Lent as one of them.

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