Lesson 43: Fast and Abstinence
"And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the desert, for the space of forty days; and was tempted by the devil.  And He ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, He was hungry."  (Luke 4:1-2)

  1. What is fasting?

  2.    Fasting means that on certain days, you may eat --
    1. One full meal with meat (unless it is also a day of abstinence)
    2. Two small meals without meat.
    3. No food between meals.
    A fast day consists of 24 hours, from midnight to midnight.  The two small meals may be only enough to maintain strength and are not to exceed the size of the one main meal.  Liquids, including milk and fruit juice, may be taken between meals, but tend to violate the spirit of the fast.

  3. Who is obliged to fast?

  4.    Every Catholic over 21 and not yet 59, who is not sick, pregnant or nursing a baby.
    People doing heavy manual labor may be excused from this obligation by their pastor or confessor; also, those who work long hours.

  5. What kind of sin is it not to fast?

  6.    A mortal sin, unless you are excused.

  7. When must you fast?

  8. According to the old norms:
    1. Every day in Lent, except Sundays.
    2. December 7, December 24 (or 23) and the Saturday before Pentecost.
    3. Ember Days
    Some Catholics continue this tradition.  According to the new norms, there are only 2 fast days:  Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

  9. When does Lent begin?

  10.    On Ash Wednesday; it ends 40 days later, on the Saturday before Easter at midnight.

  11. When are the Ember Days?

  12.    The Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays following September 14, December 13, Pentecost Sunday and the 1st Sunday in Lent.  Under the new norms the Ember days are no longer observed.

  13. What is abstinence?

  14.    Abstinence means that on certain days you may not eat meat.

  15. What is meant by "meat"?

  16.    The flesh of any warm-blooded animal or bird and the soups or gravies made from such flesh.
    Sea foods are allowed (fish, lobster, turtles, crabs, oysters, frogs, scallops, clams, and so on).

  17. Who is obliged to abstain from meat?

  18.    Traditionally, every Catholic 7 years of age and over.
    According to the new norms, every Catholic 14 years of age and over is obliged to abstain.

  19. What kind of sin is it not to abstain?

  20.    A mortal sin.

  21. On what days are you forbidden to eat meat at all?

  22.    According to the old norms:  Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of the year (unless a Holy Day of Obligation falls on Friday), December 7 and December 24 (or 23).  Some Catholics continue this tradition.  According to the new norms:  Ash Wednesday and every Friday of Lent.  According to the new norms, on every Friday of the year outside Lent Catholics must either abstain from meat or do some other comparable penance, unless the Friday falls on a Holy Day of Obligation, in which case one is excused from abstinence.

  23. What is partial abstinence?

  24.    Traditionally, this means that those who are obliged to abstain may eat meat only once (at the main meal) on the Wednesdays and Saturdays of Ember weeks and on the vigil of Pentecost.  Under the new norms there are no longer any days of partial abstinence.