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Let’s review the church laws of abstinence, penance, and fasting with help from the Code of Canon Law (CCL).

Ash Wednesday is a day of both abstinence and fasting. While not a holy day of obligation to attend Mass, it is very important to begin this great season by returning to the Lord with our hearts, with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are the three arms of our campaign against the forces of darkness, in imitation of Our Lord in the desert and to prepare us for Easter.

Abstinence begins on one’s 14th birthday and pertains to Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent.
It obliges abstention from flesh meat (CCL 1252).

Fasting applies to everyone aged 18 to 59 inclusive. One full meal is permitted and two other meals may be taken which, when combined, are less than a full meal. Such fasting applies to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (CCL 1251).

The obligation to do penance is lifted on Fridays that are also celebrated as a Solemnity.

Always, the law of the Eucharistic fast is one hour before reception of the Holy Eucharist. The law of penance applies to all the faithful and applies to “every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent” (CCL 1250).

Outside of Lent, abstinence from meat on Fridays is recommended but not required, but doing some kind of prayer, penance and almsgiving should be done on every Friday outside of Lent.

Adapted from Fr. Matt’s bulletin column, 2/4/24