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Fasting on a Day Other Than Ash Wednesday or Good Friday

Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Adding another day of fasting is a way of practicing an additional sacrifice during Lent. You can decide to fast one day per week. (Friday would be a traditional choice for this.) Or you can just fast a single day or a few days of your choosing.

Traditionally a fast means two small meals and one regular meal per day, with no snacking between meals. But since this is your own additional fast you can choose how to do it. Just decide your parameters and stick to them. Fasting is an act of learning self discipline, so make it a bit of a challenge, but not so difficult that you are setting yourself up for failure.

Add an Extra Day

You can also choose whether to abstain from meat or not on your voluntary fast day. I recommend it, but you also have to consider those around you. For example, as a member of a family, you can't expect the family cook to prepare a special meal for you. So if abstaining is going to cause more problems than do good, you can make your own choice since this is your own personal act of sacrifice, outside of the required abstinence. However, if you choose to do your fast on Fridays during Lent, the abstinence will already be "built in", making Fridays a logical choice for this activity.

And remember that fasting is not dieting. The purpose of a fast is to grow closer to our Lord and to empty ourselves of our attachment to worldly things. So take some time to think about the meaning of love and sacrifice.

fasting and feasting prayer
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Fast and Feast Prayer

This prayer can be found in many variations. It suggests something to fast from and then an alternative to feast upon. We don’t give something up to make ourselves suffer. We give things up for Lent to make room for something better.

Four Reasons for Fasting Video

Why should Christians fast? In this video, Fr. Mike Schmitz explains.

We should not fast for God’s favor or attention. We already have that.

  1. For self mastery. If we cannot say no to something, then we are a slave to that thing. Jesus came to set us free.
  2. Obedience and discernment. We let the church tell us to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In the New Testament, the disciples fast while listening for the Holy Spirit.
  3. Worship. We sacrifice a legitimate pleasure to express our love for God.
  4. To be a co-redeemer. St. Paul tells us that our sufferings make up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ. Jesus offers us a small particle of his cross so we can participate in the salvation of the world with Him.
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Lenten Ideas

Lent is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. See some practical suggestions for these three pillars of Lenten practice here.

Fasting and Abstinence Information for Catholics

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.


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