Friday, March 4, 2011


We are days away from Lenten fasts and the Catholic maxim, “When Catholics feast they really feast and when they fast they cheat.”

The fact is that though we often associate fasting with Lent, we are called to do it all the time. It is recommended to Catholics to practice fasting from time to time. It was, after all, a practice of Christ our exemplar par excellence.

Fasting, at its minimum, is really not all that difficult though it can be trying from time to time. The Church in her wisdom makes the laws of fasting rather lax in order to make it as accessible a practice as possible.

For example, the Eucharistic fast which Catholics are obliged to follow every time they receive Communion is one hour before receiving Communion. If receiving at Mass a half hour of that is in Church (though I have seen some people who cannot survive Mass without snacks) and if your parish is any distance much of the rest of the time involves getting ready and walking/driving to your parish. One hour is hardly a stretch of the capabilities of man. This fast of one hour does not exclude water and medication and for the sick and the elderly it is reduced to 15 minutes. I’ve heard homilies that were 15 minutes. This 15 minute rule also extends to those attending to the sick and elderly IF the one hour fast would be too difficult.

Required fasting days are reduced to 2: Ash Wednesday (just around the corner) and Good Friday. These are hardly stringent expectations. That the perception that eating fish is part of it may be (I loathe even the concept of eating fish) but that too is false. One is NOT required to eat fish on a fast and abstinence day. That is why God made cheese. But I digress.

On these two days we are actually required to cut back our eating to normal proportions – perhaps that which most of the world get to eat if they are lucky: one meal and two smaller – usually a small breakfast (which probably should be renamed on such a day) and a collation or snack (small meal.) The two latter should not add up to more food than is in the main meal. (Mind you – this is a minimum!)

If you have not completed your 18th year, or are over the age of 60, you are not obliged. According to the EWTN site, “Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.”

Lastly, from the same source, “Before all else we are obliged to perform the duties of our state in life. When considering stricter practices than the norm, it is prudent to discuss the matter with one's confessor or director. Any deprivation that would seriously hinder us in carrying out our work, as students, employees or parents would be contrary to the will of God.”


Chuck said...

Ahh yes, we will soon be bombarded with a "fillet-o-fish" blitz from Micky D's to Arby's for forty days and night. How many served now? I lost count. It would be refreshing to hear a "got cheese" campaign from the happy cows in California or the cheese heads in Wisconsin. I too digress.

So if asked if I would like to "supersize" that meal, I will simply say no thanks. Lent is a time to "downsize" and leave room for God our Father in heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Nan said...

Laughing at your comment about cheese as it's one of my Friday staples; grilled cheese, cheese and crackers, mushroom and cheese omelette...although because I do like fish and my mom doesn't, I always looked forward to Lent as a child because I knew I'd get fish on Friday. The simple solution was to send my dad to McDonalds with the kids and I still frequently partake of the traditional Lenten Filet o Fish.

I do hear a lot of commentary about Catholics having to eat fish on Friday and some link that to the Pope supporting the fishing industry. ???? My parish doesn't have a fish fry except on the Friday before Palm Sunday. Otherwise it's soup.

Matt W said...

Called the chancery--got the green light for muskrat on Fridays for priests who don't eat fish.