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Monday, July 4, 2016

The Basics of the Church’s Traditional Laws of Fast and Abstinence

The Basics of the Church’s Traditional Laws of Fast and Abstinence


In these days of shocking scandals in the conciliar church and creeping liberalism in the New-SSPX, we sometimes forget one of the basic duties of a good Catholic: observing the Church’s Rules of Fast and Abstinence. In the old days, our parish priests reminded us of them in a timely manner: four times a year (Ember Days approximately at the change of seasons) and Eves and Vigils of various Feast days.

However, it was not always easy to keep them clear in our minds. Thus, in the 1970s our (traditional Catholic) pastor put together and distributed the following Chart as a quick reference. It was a real plus for us traditional Catholic families. You may want to save this Chart as well as copy it and pass it on.
Having said that, it is worthwhile noting that the Church’s laws of fast and abstinence are a bare minimum and not the recommended or ideal amount. We should do much more fasting and abstinence than what is required. Unless you do penance, you shall likewise perish. St. Luke 13:5.
We are traditional Catholics and so we follow the “traditional rules”—not choosing the easier path as the conciliar church has. Further, we recommended that Catholics:
  • Fast beyond age 60, if they can, in order to be more generous with Our Lord;
  • Fast and abstain until Easter Sunday morning, rather than ending these Lenten observances at noon Holy Saturday.
  • Have children begin to abstain from meat before the rules absolutely require it. It would send the right message to younger children (and not harm their health in the least). This shows them that a serious Catholic does not ask, “How little can I do?”
  • The vigil of the Immaculate Conception is not traditionally a day of fast and abstinence. However, because Pope Pius XII transferred this obligation from the vigil of the Assumption to the vigil of the Immaculate Conception, it seems fitting for traditional Catholics to observe both days.
Two further points:
  1. The traditional rules required fasting beginning at 21, but this is perhaps the only occasion when the new code is stronger (in a very narrow respect)—it requires fasting beginning at age 18—although only on a (wimpy) two days per year. We need more fasting (and other penance), not less, and should begin fasting at 18.
  2. Contrary to what the conciliar church does in practice, the new code of Canon Law (despite its countless flaws) does require abstinence on the Fridays of the year. While the New Code of Canon Law—canon 1251—does allow a national bishops’ conference to substitute the penance of abstaining from a different food, the U.S. conference of bishops has not done this.
    The “new” SSPX and other indult groups follow the soft conciliar practice of asserting that no abstinence is mandatory (under pain of mortal sin) on most Fridays of the year. This soft practice ignores:
    1. the traditional law of the Church;
    2. even the lax new code of Canon Law they purport to follow; and
    3. the fact that the U.S. bishops’ conference has never specified any other food from which Catholics must abstain on Fridays instead of meat.

The following simplified chart incorporates our small recommendations from above.

Days of fast and at least partial abstinence

  • Weekdays of Lent
  • Ember Days
  • Vigils of Easter, Pentecost, Assumption, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas

Days of complete abstinence

  • All Fridays (except holy days of obligation)
  • Vigils of Easter, Assumption, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas
  • Ash Wednesday

For the chart: