Guidelines for Fast and Abstinence during Lent

March 4, 2017

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) produced a statement in 1966 called Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence,which was modified slightly in 1983.

These statements mean

In the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has declared that “the age of fasting is from the completion of the eighteenth year to the beginning of the sixtieth.” The USCCB also allows the substitution of some other form of penance for abstinence on all of the Fridays of the year, except for those Fridays in Lent. Thus, the rules for fasting and abstinence in the United States are:

  • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent.
  • Every person between the age of 18 and 59 (beginning of 60th year) must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year, unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence.

According to the USCCB

Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden. However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste). Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

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