Holy Days of Obligation, and the Laws of Fasting and Abstinence

DON'T FORGET: In Canada, December 25th and January 1 are Holy Days of Obligation. Don't forget to go to Mass on those days!

The Laws of Fasting and Abstinence:

What is "Abstinence"? Abstinence is to refrain from eating any kind of warm-blooded meat. This includes any kind of beef, chicken, pork, or any kind of wild bird or game. Fish and most other water-dwelling creatures are cold-blooded, and may be eaten on days of abstinence.

What is "Fasting"? Fasting means to refrain from any kind of food at all, and all drinks except for water. You are still allowed to take any medications that you need. (If a fast lasts a day or more, it is customary to permit two small meals (snack-sized) and juices for each day of fasting.)

A fast of one hour, or of only a few hours, is always a total fast, except for water and medication.

Who has to observe days of abstinence from meat? Every healthy person, not pregnant, over the age of 14 or who has had their 14th birthday.

Who has to observe the laws of fasting? Every healthy person, not pregnant, who has had their 18th birthday, but not yet their 60th birthday.

When are we supposed to abstain from warm-blooded meat?

All Fridays of the year, and Ash Wednesday. According to Canon Law, the normal penance for Fridays is to abstain from meat.

In Canada, a person may substitute a work of charity or a devotion of some kind in its place on every Friday of the year except for Good Friday - keeping in mind that it is important to maintain the penitential character of Fridays throughout the year, in sober remembrance of Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross for our sins, which took place on a Friday.

In the United States, abstinence from meat is required on every Friday of Lent, as well as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but substitutions are permitted on the Fridays outside of Lent.

On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, if you are between the ages of 14 and 18, you don't have to fast (if you are over 18 you do have to fast, also), but you do have to abstain from warm-blooded meat on these days.

When are we supposed to fast?

Everyone who is over 18 and under 60 is supposed to fast from food and drink, and abstain from warm-blooded meat on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. On these days, two small meals and juices are permitted during the day. (If you normally don't eat large meals anyway, simply skip lunch and don't snack between meals on these days.)

We also fast for at least one hour before receiving Holy Communion. (You can have water and medicine, as well as use non-food items such as toothpaste, but you must not chew gum or eat candy, nor any kind of food, or drinks other than water.)

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