Ash Wednesday – Fasting and Abstinence
All Catholics 14 years of age and older are obliged to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent.
In their Penance and Abstinence pastoral, the U.S. Bishops declared: “the obligation both to fast and to abstain from meat, an obligation observed under a more strict formality by our fathers in faith, still binds on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself from so hallowed an obligation.” They also stated, “we preserve for our dioceses the tradition of abstinence from meat on each of the Fridays of Lent, confident that no Catholic Christian will lightly hold himself excused from this penitential practice.”
Catholics 18-59 years of age who are in good health are obliged to fast and abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. On all the weekdays of Lent, the U.S. Bishops strongly encourage the faithful to participate in Mass and to observe a self-imposed fast. The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening. Customarily, the two smaller “collations,” when considered together, should not equal the main meal, and ideally, should be eaten only if needed to maintain one’s strength. Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women. In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.