From a reader…
Dear Fr Z, I wish you would do a “how to” post on fasting for Ember Days and other occasions. Does it literally mean not eating all day? I have seen some directives that recommend two small meals and one regular one, but that hardly seems like a sacrifice at all. Or should we aim to give up our favorite indulgence as during Lent? (Don’t take away my coffee!)
Maybe it’s the coffee that you should give up.
Before the reforms which were not called for by the Second Vatican Council were instituted, on Ember Days Roman Catholics were to fast (only one full meal per day plus two partial meals). That meant that on each of the Ember Fridays, there was both fasting and abstinence from meat). Moreover, people were encouraged to go to confession during the Ember Days.
You can, prudently, do more.
BTW… in ancient times, when there were many more days of fasting and abstinence, people would donate the money they would have spent on food to the poor. Even St. Leo the Great (+461) talks about that.
In 1966, came the near-disaster of Paul VI’s decree Paenitemini which revamped the entire practice of fasting and abstinence for Roman Catholics. Among the near-disasters was the exclusion of Ember Days as penitential days. Of course, left to themselves, with the Church’s law and without sound preaching, people simply stopped doing penance on Fridays.
When the Novus Ordo was issued in 1969, there was a squishy remnant of the Ember Days left as a vague option that conferences of bishops could use. Or course, they did nothing.
Now, however, some people are waking up to traditional uses and devotions.
I would also recommend a return to the practice of Forty Hours Devotion throughout entire dioceses. Forty Hours is not a long Corpus Christi or Holy Thursday. Forty Hours is a devotion during which we pray to God to avert disasters, invasions, famine, disease, etc., or to beg for certain advantages for the community.
BRICK BY BRICK, my readers. Brick by brick!