Six Practical Rules for Fasting and Abstinence During Lent

Here are some practical guidelines for you to live this Lenten season in a more intense and meaningful way.

Newsroom (26/02/2023 10:44 AM, Gaudium Press) ​​Lent is the 40-day liturgical period from Ash Wednesday until the Mass at the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday.

During these days, the Church invites us above all to conversion, a change of life, and concrete renunciation of bodily pleasures in view of the eternal life that awaits us. There is no salvation without sacrifice.

That is why we have separated here some practical guidelines for you to live this Lenten season in a more intense and meaningful way.

1- Intensify and Strengthen the Moments of Prayer

First of all, whether personal or in community, prayer is fundamental in the Lenten season. It is the moment to raise your mind to God and Our Lady.

Therefore, spare no effort to intensify and strengthen these moments.

How about starting by setting a time in your day to pray and reflect on a passage from the Bible?

2- Go to Confession and Practice Small Acts of Penance

Lent is a favorable time for penance. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches, “these times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as a sign of penance, voluntary privations such as fasting and almsgiving, etc.” (CCC, number 1438).

This is not a punishment, but a way to seek holiness and purification. Thus, it should not be done as an obligation, but rather with willingness, joy, and an awareness of the purpose of this action.

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3- Help with Alms and Charity

“Let us have charity and humility and give alms, since these wash away the stains of sins” (St. Francis).

Lent is a time for charity! So see what you can do for a person, family, or institution that needs donations.

St. Leo the Great reminds us: “these Lenten days urgently invite us to the exercise of charity; if we wish to reach Easter sanctified in our being, we must take a very special interest in the development of this virtue, which contains within itself all the other virtues and covers a multitude of sins.

4- Practice Abstinence

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion: these are the two days of the year when the Church defines obligatory fasting and abstinence.

Abstinence, in short, is abstaining from meat and meat products, except fish and seafood.

Those who have reached the age of fourteen are obliged to abstinence, and this obligation lasts their whole life.

Pregnant and nursing mothers and the sick are exempt from abstinence, as are the poor who receive meat as alms.

On the other Fridays of the year, except if they are Solemnities, abstinence is obligatory. However, in Canada and the US, there are specific norms from the respective National Conferences of Bishops.

5- Fasting

Fasting is obligatory for people between the ages of eighteen and fifty-nine. Others can do it, but there is no obligation.

Pregnant and nursing mothers and the sick are also exempt from fasting, as are those who do hard manual or intellectual work on the day.

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Water and medicine are always allowed.

Fasting can be practiced in several ways, such as bread and water: also known as biblical fasting, consists of bread and water throughout the day.

based on liquids: such as teas, vitamins, dairy products, but not broths.

abstaining from any of the meals: you choose one of the meals not to eat, and eat moderately at the other two.

6- Complete fasting: only water during the day

Ecclesiastical fasting: consists in eating a single complete meal until satiety (which does not mean stuffing oneself, but eating enough according to one’s condition). In addition to this single meal, which can be taken at lunchtime, at dinnertime, or even at breakfast, the traditional discipline of the Church recognizes the possibility of taking two other light and very modest meals during the day.

However, for fasting to be fasting, it is necessary to feel hungry. Other mortifications, or penances, may be welcome, but they are not fasting.

In this sense, it is also possible to establish a “fast” from slander (gossip), from harmful words, from attitudes that go against the teachings of Jesus.

With information from

Compiled by Florence MacDonald

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