Catholic Church Practices on Abstinence and Fasting During Holy Week

Holy Week

Fasting and abstinence begin during the 40-day Lenten season. In preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of the Lord, the season of Lent is characterized by acts of penance and atonement for sin. Fasting and abstinence are essential components of this preparation for several reasons, including the development of virtue and self-mastery and the facilitation of the avoidance of sinful tendencies that, in the case of mortal sin, can ultimately result in the loss of one's spiritual life.

Fasting and Abstinence

According to Catholic Online, the tradition of abstaining from food during the season of Lent originates in the journey that Jesus took into the desert, where he spent forty days and nights fasting and praying in preparation for the start of his public ministry. In remembrance of the forty days that Christ spent fasting and praying in the wilderness, Lent consists of forty days. 

As mentioned, fasting is a practice that Christians engage in during the season of Lent to prepare themselves to follow Christ into the desert and have the fortitude to resist temptation with God's grace. As part of our preparations for the celebration of Christ's triumphant resurrection on Easter Sunday, we observe the season of Lent as a penitential season, during which we seek penance for our sins and endeavor to make our lives more holy.

Also Read:Pastor Francisco Barajah, Founder of Santa Trindade Evangelical Church, Died for Trying 40 Days of Fasting for Jesus 

Catholic Church Practices During Holy Week

As per the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics must fast and abstain from food as part of their religious observances. In addition, during the period of Lent, abstinence is required on Fridays of each week.

From the age of 18 until the age of 59, members of the Latin Catholic Church are required to adhere to the prescribed norms regarding fasting. A person who is fasting is permitted to consume one full meal as well as two smaller meals that, when added together, do not add up to the amount of food consumed during one full meal. After the age of 14, members of the Latin Catholic Church must adhere to the norms regarding abstinence from meat consumption.

Moreover, members of the Eastern Catholic Churches must abide by the specific laws of their respective sui iuris churches. If possible, the "paschal fast" on Good Friday is extended until the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday night) to honor Jesus' suffering and death and prepare us to share and celebrate his resurrection.

On the other hand, the Inquierer.Net reported that according to the teachings of the Jesuits in the Philippines, individuals who are homeless and materially impoverished might be excluded from the observance. In the meantime, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) indicated that women who are breastfeeding their infants or who are pregnant might also be excluded.

There have been several exemptions granted in the Philippines. One of these is a community known as Cutud in San Fernando, Pampanga, which was permitted to consume meat on Good Friday as a result of a local celebration occurring on that day.

Furthermore, in 2015, since the Lunar New Year fell on Ash Wednesday, the then-Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, granted Filipino-Chinese and Chinese Catholics in its episcopal jurisdiction an exemption or dispensation from the requirements of fasting and abstinence for them to properly observe the holiday.

Related Article: Exploring the Spiritual Significance of Fasting During Ramadan, Lent, and Other Holy Days