Questions and Answers about Lent and Lenten Practices

 In Living the Liturgy


 Q: I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat. Also, I’ve noticed that restaurants and grocery stores advertise specials on expensive types of fish and seafood on Fridays during Lent.  Some of my friends take advantage of these deals, but somehow, I don’t feel right treating myself to the lobster special on Fridays during Lent. 

 A: 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, bouillon cubes, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.  

 Fish are a different category of animal. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted. However, while fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in expensive types of fish or seafood, or in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the pointRemember, abstaining from meat and other indulgences during Lent is a penitential practice of sacrifice, uniting it with the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday.


 Q: I understand that Catholics ages 18 to 59 should fast on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday, but what exactly are the rules for these fasts?

A: Fasting on these days means we can have only one full, meatless meal.  Some food can be taken at the other regular meal times if necessary, but combined they should be less than a full meal.  Liquids are allowed at any time, but no solid food should be consumed between meals. 

Q: Are there exemptions other than for age from the requirement to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday?

 A: 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.

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