Everyone over 7 years of age is bound to observe the law of ABSTINENCE.
COMPLETE ABSTINENCE, which forbids the eating of meat, and soup or gravy made from meat, is required on: all Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, the Vigil of the Assumption, and the Vigil of Christmas.
PARTIAL ABSTINENCE, which permits meat, and soup or gravy made from meat, to be eaten only once a day, at the principal meal, is required on: Ember Wednesdays, Ember Saturdays, and the Vigil of Pentecost.
The days of FAST are: weekdays of Lent, Ember days, the Vigil of Pentecost, the Vigil of the Assumption, and the Vigil of Christmas.
On the days of FAST, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal.
Meat may be taken at the principal meal on a day of FAST except on days of COMPLETE ABSTINENCE (see above).
When health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige. In doubt concerning FAST or ABSTINENCE, a parish priest or confessor should be consulted.
There is no obligation for FAST or ABSTINENCE on a Holyday of Obligation, even though it may fall on a Friday.
The FAST and ABSTINENCE for the Vigil of Christmas (Dec. 24) may instead be observed Dec. 23.


The above practices were formerly promulgated by the Church as laws which all Catholics were bound to obey. In recent years, these regulations have been relaxed to such an extent that they no longer bind in the consciences of Catholics under pain of serious sin.

Current legislation dictates the following:

COMPLETE ABSTINENCE is to be observed by Catholics 14 years of age and older only on Ash Wednesday as well as on all Fridays of Lent.
FAST is to be observed by Catholics ages 18 to 59 inclusive and must be kept solely on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. A Catholic may, if he wishes, observe the present regulations without fault or sin.

Nonetheless, it is to be highly recommended that a Catholic follow, as much as possible, the traditional practices in a spirit of penance, mortification, and reparation. However, it is to be noted that those who do take advantage of the new laws, according to the mind of the Church, are ex-pected to “try to make compensation for these benefits by an outstanding life of Christian example and by works of penance and charity.”

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