As we begin the Lenten season, we are reminded of the need to make reparation for our sins and be reconciled with God. Any attempt to build a spiritual life that neglects the pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is building on sand. Prayer purifies our intentions and relates all we do to God. Fasting detaches us from our comfort and from ourselves. Almsgiving reflects our brotherhood with the poor of Jesus’ family and reminds us that our true wealth is not in things, but in the love of God. We all need to do a reality check on our spiritual lives to make sure we are committed to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. (Fr. Alex Yeung, LC)

Statement Regarding Fast and Abstinence

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.

The CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) decrees that the days of fast and abstinence in Canada are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Fridays are days of abstinence, but Catholics can substitute special acts of charity or piety on these days. Accordingly, our CCCB urges us to take up the challenge of meaningful penance as expressed in fast and abstinence. They call us to become more mindful of our loving Creator and Redeemer. They ask us to be generous and faithful in our practices of penance. It is never a question of undermining one’s health. On the other hand, we should be aware of those sensible acts of penance that can actually improve our bodily health.

In a practical vein, our Bishops propose that all who are well enough, and of the prescribed age, begin now to observe abstinence on every Friday of the year that is not a major feast (e.g. Christmas Day) and to fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Individuals may wish to do more penance, but as a community let the Church at least observe the recommended days of abstinence and the two days of both fast and abstinence.

Abstinence

Will mean not to eat meat or some other favorite food and a practice of moderation in all food and drink on a given day.

Fasting

Can vary from person to person. Some people will be able to make a total fast; eating only bread and drinking only water; others will adopt a vegetarian diet on a day of fast; others still will take only one complete meal. Each person needs to decide according to his or her ability, work and condition. But no one form is better than another, so long as it is done generously and with a good motive.

The Bishops invite all to consider every Friday of the year, and especially the season of Lent, as opportune times to praise God and ask for his blessings, to be attentive to almsgiving and other works of charity, and to strive to grow in compassion. To visit the sick, to support the needy and to offer assistance to third world countries would be practical ways of expressing genuine love for those others dear to the Lord.

People are asked to begin the practice of abstinence after their 14th birthday; fasting would obligate those who have celebrated their 18th birthday and for a period up to their 59th birthday, although all, no matter what their age, should be taught the meaning of penance. (Canon 1252)

(Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops 2003)