Ash Wednesday, Good Friday days of fast, abstinence

Published: February 21, 2023

En Español

As the season of Lent begins, it is helpful to recall the discipline of the Church with regard to fasting, abstinence and other forms of penance. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence where Catholics begin and end Lent penitentially. The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence in the United States.

The law of fasting allows one full meal and two smaller ones that do not together equal one full meal. Those that are fasting have the opportunity to practice self-control and to detach from worldly desires. All between the ages of 18-59 are obliged to fast.

The law of abstinence prohibits the eating of meat and its obligation begins at age 14. Pastors and parents have the duty to educate minors in the authentic sense of penance and to encourage them to do acts of penance suitable to their age.

All members of the Christian faithful are encouraged to do acts of penance and charity during the Lenten season beyond what is prescribed by the law. For more information, see "Your questions about Lent answered," or "Fasting: The goal is a transformed heart" to find out the benefits and reasons to fast.