Lent is almost here and though most Catholics know they’re not supposed to eat meat on Fridays, some of the other fasting and abstinence rules get a little blurry. The Roman Catholic Church bases the rules off the Code of Canon Law; bishops in certain countries modify the rules.
As per the Code of Canon Law, people who are 18-59 are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. According to U.S. bishops, fasting consists of only eating one full meal. Snacks are allowed around breakfast and in the afternoon or evening, depending on when the person decides to eat his or her full meal.
Catholics who are 14 and older should participate in abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays throughout Lent. According to AmericanCatholic.org, this doen't include eggs, milk products or condiments that are made from animal fat. For instance, chicken broth can be consumed, along with gravies and sauces flavored with meat. Butter, margarine and lard are permissible. The site added that bacon drippings poured over lettuce as a dressing can be used if they contain bits of meat.
According to the Global Catholic Network, moral theologians excuse people from fasting and/or abstinence for sickness and pregnancy, people who are nursing, individuals of "unsound mind," people who are frail or even guests who cannot excuse themselves without offending the host.
Lent isn’t solely about not eating meat, and the restriction of food isn’t the only way penance can be carried out. Pope Paul IV reminded Catholics that they should forgive and show love for others just as they ask for God’s love and forgiveness. The Code of Canon Law and bishops recommend going to Mass daily or several times a week, making the sign of the cross, praying the rosary, reading to the blind, teaching the illiterate to read, volunteering time at a soup kitchen or even giving an overworked mother a break by babysitting; tasks like these can be more meaningful than simply abstaining from meat on Fridays.
Follow me on Twitter @mariamzzarella