In the Diocese of Baton Rouge as in the rest of the Church in the U.S., Catholics aged 18 through 59 are bound by a grave obligation to observe a solemn fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Catholics between the ages of 14 and 59 are to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday as well. These norms have been established by the national Conference of Catholic Bishops in accord with the norms of canons 1249-1253 in the revised Code of Canon Law.
To fast means to consume only one full meal a day at most, although taking of other, smaller quantities of food at the other customary mealtimes is permitted. Food and drink “between meals” (excepting only water and medicine) are not permitted on fast days.
To abstain from meat means refraining from eating beef, veal, pork, or poultry at least, although not eggs, mill products, or condiments made from animal fat. The consumption of fish, shellfish, and reptiles is permitted if desired.
Beyond mandatory days listed above, abstinence from meat on every Friday throughout the year, which is not a solemnity, and fasting on all Lenten weekdays (especially Wednesdays and Fridays) and on Holy Saturday, is strongly recommended to all the faithful.
Each and every Christian, in his or her own way, is bound to do penance by virtue of divine law. In the Lenten season, Christ Jesus’ own challenges to “prayer, fasting and almsgiving” (see the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, Mt. 6:1-6,16-18) are paramount. We seek ongoing forgiveness for sin (especially in the Sacrament of Penance) and come to appreciate even more the great sufferings and sacrifice which our Savior experienced for the sake of our salvation.
Clergy (priests and deacons) who have legitimate residence and active ministry within the Diocese of B.R. have been delegated the power to dispense the faithful of the Diocese, in individual cases and for a just reason, from the obligation to observe a day of penance, or to commute some or all of its obligations to other pious works. Included in this is the faculty to dispense from the Lenten obligations to fast and abstain from meat.
May I invite all of you to join our St. Gabriel parish community as we enter into the Paschal season. Daily and weekly, we will be keeping this season of our Passover, praying with and for one another.