Remember! #AshWednesday Fast and abstinence! What’s your plan?

What are you all having for your meals today?

I had a slice of toast this morning.  Later, probably a bowl of vegetable soup. For supper, after Mass… we’ll see.  Probably nothing.

According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law for the Latin Church, Latin Church Catholics are bound to observe fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday.

Here are some details. I am sure you know them already, but they are good to review.

FASTING: Catholics who are 18 year old and up, until their 59th birthday (when you begin your 60th year), are bound to fast (1 full meal and perhaps some food at a couple points during the day, call it 2 “snacks”, according to local custom or law – call it, two snacks that don’t add up to a full meal) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  There is no scientific formula for this.  Figure it out.

ABSTINENCE: Catholics who are 14 years old and older are abound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all Fridays of Lent.

In general, when you have a medical condition of some kind, or you are pregnant, etc., these requirements can be relaxed.

For Eastern Catholics there are differences concerning dates and practices. Perhaps our Eastern friends can fill us Latins in.

You should by now have a plan for your spiritual life and your physical/material mortifications and penitential practices during Lent.

You would do well to include some works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal.

I also recommend making a good confession close to the beginning of Lent.  Let me put that another way:


“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying anxiously, “What about my Mystic Monk Coffee?  I can drink my Mystic Monk Coffee, can’t I?  Can’t I  I know you hate Vatican II but… WHAT ABOUT MY COFFEE?!?”

You can, of course, with and as part of your full meal and two “snacks”.  No question there.

How about in between?  

The old axiom, for the Lenten fast, is “Liquidum non frangit ieiuniumliquid does not break the fast”, provided you are drinking for the sake of thirst, rather than for eating.  Common sense suggests that chocolate banana shakes or “smoothies”, etc., are not permissible, even though they are pretty much liquid in form.  They are not what you would drink because you are thirsty, as you might more commonly do with water, coffee, tea, wine in some cases, lemonade, even some of these sports drinks such as “Gatorade”, etc.  Again, common sense applies, so figure it out.

Drinks such as coffee and tea seem not break the Lenten fast even if they have a little milk added, or a bit of sugar, or fruit juice, which in the case of tea might be lemon.

Coffee would break the Eucharistic fast (one hour before Communion), since – pace fallentes  – coffee is no longer water, but it does not break the Lenten fast on Ash Wednesday.

You will be happy to know that chewing tobacco does not break the fast (unless you eat the quid, I guess), nor does using mouthwash (gargarisatio in one manual I checked) or brushing your teeth (pulverisatio).

If you want to drink your coffee and tea with true merit I suggest drinking it from one of my coffee mugs.  I’d like to offer an indulgence for doing so, but that’s above my pay grade.

Perhaps I should make a “Liquidum non frangit ieiunium” mug.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. cda_sister says:

    Toast and coffee this morning. Lentil soup for lunch. Dinner will probably be baked fish and salad.

  2. Kent Wendler says:

    You know, practicing Friday abstinence year around (except for solemnities, of course) has a kind of advantage when Lent comes around. Except for Ash Wednesday there’s really no difference. Especially for those of us beyond 59 years.

    Now I do have a somewhat distant appointment on Friday for which I will leave Thursday afternoon, and when it is not Lent I usually do a substitute penance. But this time we are simply staying at a lodging which offers a “continental” (read: no meats provided) breakfast, and having fish sandwiches for lunch.

  3. APX says:

    I’m in the process of baking bread right now, and I made up a exceptionally large pot of Lenten Soup based on an old Carmelite soup recipe I have in a cookbook (I tweaked it a bit to accommodate cleaning out my deep freeze, and added some canned beans for protein) on Sunday, so I’ll be eating that, with a side salad and a slice of my fresh homemade bread. Having given up coffee for Lent, I had a cup of tea for breakfast.

  4. majuscule says:

    Bread and (Mystic Monk) coffee for breakfast.

    I may have my “meal” at noontime and bread and water in the evening. Or the other way around. I haven’t decided on that yet. It’s still early on the West Coast.

  5. mcgarveya says:

    I am doing a bread and water fast on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays in Lent. It’s going very well so far

  6. Nan says:

    Byzantine Ruthenians fast on Monday preceding Ash Wednesday and good Friday, eating neither meat and dairy. Wed and Fri during Lent and Holy Saturday, abstain from meat. The traditional fast was all of lent without meat, eggs or dairy.

    I had cheese and crackers this morning and have an egg salad sandwich and fruit for lunch. Jumping on the lentil soup bandwagon for dinner.

  7. You mean there are alternatives to over-cooked dried out fish sticks? The great American fast day favorite. Frozen, cheap and convenient. Back when schools here used to always serve fish on Fridays, I had many a Friday fish stick. So guess what…probably its what’s for a light dinner tonight. With a salad.

    Breakfast: a soft-boiled egg and a half a slice of bread with lemon curd – mostly so I could get my vitamins down without tearing up the stomach.

    I’ll consider a cup of vegetable broth for lunch [boiled water and Vegetable flavor Better Than Bouillon] but I prefer nothing if I can make it until dinner.

    In the spirit of the Byzantine old-style fast, I try to avoid dairy – so no milk in the coffee or cheese added to the meals. No butter on the toast.

  8. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Breakfast: 2 cups strong black coffee
    Dinner: grilled fish, vegetables
    Water in between

  9. Spade says:

    Bag of chips for breakfast. I’ll have some fries for lunch.

    Dinner will be this tuna pasta thing my wife and I really like.

    Normally I give up meat for all of Lent, but the wife is with child and declared that since making two meals is poor planning that idea was out.

  10. Nan says:


    I hear you about the fish sticks. We didn’t get fish much when I was a kid, so I have lent backwards. Filet o fish doesn’t sound like a decadent treat to anyone but me so nobody realizes that eating salmon is a sacrifice. No idea why so many people think the church mandates eating fish.

  11. “Catholics who are 18 year old and up, until their 59th birthday (when you begin your 60th year), are bound to fast”

    This law probably was established back when most 60-year olds were near the end of the line, aged and likely infirm. Now, however, the typical life expectancy may be 20+ years greater than then, and some say middle age (in terms of health and life style) now extends to age 65 or 70. Should the age of fasting be increased accordingly? Isn’t it really absurd to exempt a vigorous healthy 60-year old from fasting?

  12. LarryW2LJ says:

    Breakfast was a cup of coffee.
    No lunch.
    Going to Mass at 7:00 PM tonight, so dinner will have to be quick. My wife is working until 8:00 PM (she’s a nurse) so dinner for me and the kids will probably be French Toast or pancakes.

  13. cwillia1 says:

    We Byzantines do not celebrate the divine liturgy on weekdays in Lent – except for Annunciation, which we will celebrate this year on Good Friday. Tonight we will have the Pre-sanctified liturgy – vespers with a communion service. The music is distinct with lovely melodies. It is a penitential service with prostrations and the like. For us Lent began with Forgiveness vespers Sunday “evening” starting in my parish at 11:40 AM. Then Clean Monday follows with abstinence from meat, eggs and dairy.

  14. Elizabeth D says:

    When you are hungry from fasting, stale bread from the back of the fridge, toasted slightly, tastes great.

  15. Matt Robare says:

    I was caught out yesterday when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t have chicken soup for dinner tonight because it has chicken in it.

  16. Lepidus says:

    Henry Edwards: I was wondering the same thing. In fact, why is there an upper limit at all? The Church always exempts people for health reasons, so if you are 30 or 90 and must eat something to maintain your health, no problem. So why is a healthy older person exempt solely because of age? Granted that there will be more older people who would need to take advantage of the health exemption, but why would that matter?

  17. Imrahil says:

    I had spaghetti with oil, garlic, onion and tomatoes, plus a salad. I thought I might use the one meal allowance for an a bit larger meal to keep myself in strength…

    Morning and evening, one kiwi each. Almost headache-less (it disappeared when I ate the evening-kiwi), but still… tired, somewhat. Even with the larger one meal I can’t do that often while I need to get some things done, though.

    As for the fasting plan, I think I’m going to do a no-meat-except-when-someone-offers-it-and-on-Sunday abstinence. I’ll be honest: I chose that because among many usual plans, it is by far the easiest to do (although yes, I do like meat).

  18. John Nelson says:

    Perhaps I should make a “Liquidum non frangit ieiunium” mug.

    Or a pint glass?

    [Or… you could go HERE and order one.]

  19. WYMiriam says:

    1. My very-soon-to-be-96-year-old mother still keeps the yearly Friday abstinence. She just wouldn’t have it any other way. She’d fast, too, for the Fridays in Lent, except we don’t let her; she’s way too frail for that. And even though I’ve achieved the dubious distinction of no longer being required to fast, I’m going to — no sense at all for someone as able as I to NOT fast.

    2. Holy Mass pre-empted any breakfast I might have had; lunch was 2 hard-boiled eggs from a neighbor’s chickens, and 2 home-made biscuits (only 2 days old!). Supper was a can of tomato soup with lotsa pasta in it.

    3. Fr. Z said “They are not what you would drink because you are thirsty, as you might more commonly do with water, coffee, tea, wine in some cases, lemonade, even some of these sports drinks such as “Gatorade”, etc.” Seeing the latter item on the list is not surprising, seeing as how, if we can eat gator during Lent, we ought to be able to drink it, too! ;-)

  20. andia says:

    No breakfast

    Peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch with water

    Dinner was about 8:45 and was a large bowl of Mac and Cheese ( but no larger than I would normally eat. and two mugs of milk. So one regular meal and one snack sized

  21. mpolo says:

    I did two cups of coffee at breakfast, then lots and lots of water at the other mealtimes.

  22. mpolo says:

    I did two cups of coffee at breakfast, then lots and lots of water at the other mealtimes.

  23. Weetabix says:

    Breakfast: a latte (I figure the extra milk made it not just coffee)

    Lunch: a latte

    Dinner: 3 egg with some cheese and a hash brown patty we had in the freezer

    Mass was at 10:15 PM, and I was hungry afterwards. :-)

  24. LarryW2LJ says:

    Got home from work late, so I 86’ed the plans to make French Toast for the kids – no time to stop for white bread. Made them fish sandwiches and fries instead. Got changed and headed off to Mass. At the end of Mass, I received a tap on my shoulder – it was my wife! She got out of work early and was able to make it to Church while Mass was in progress.

    She hadn’t eaten and I hadn’t eaten, so I told her I’d go to Wendy’s and pickup two of their new codfish sandwich combos. I went there and ordered them. You can imagine our surprise when I got home and we unwrapped two spicy, crispy chicken sandwiches! Wrapped them up and put them in the fridge and broke out a can of Progresso New England clam chowder.

    Two questions:
    1) Since when does “codfish” sound like “chicken”?
    2) You’re really serious about that $15 an hour, eh?

  25. Art says:

    No food throughout the day and had fish tacos for dinner.

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