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Fasting & Abstinence Guidelines

Fasting and abstinence are done to honor the suffering and death of Christ and to prepare ourselves to celebrate his resurrection.

Fasting refers to the amount of food consumed as well as the times food is eaten. Abstinence means the avoidance of certain types of food.

These guidelines are from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops:

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence.


Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence for those age 14 and up. Church law specifies abstaining from eating meat, such as poultry, beef, lamb or pork, as an act of penitence.

Fasting is obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. 

In all cases, common sense should prevail, and people who are ill should not further jeopardize their health by fasting. Those that are excused from fast and abstinence (outside the age limits) include the physically or mentally ill, individuals suffering from a chronic illness, and pregnant or nursing women. 

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