Good Friday Reminder: Fasting, Abstaining, and You

Tomorrow is Good Friday. Let’s review our obligations before the day arrives so that we aren’t taken by surprise.

Two days of the year we modern Latin Church Catholics are asked both to fast and to abstain from meat.

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 and Good Friday.

Here are some details. I have posted them before, and 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 – 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… and Good Friday in the Triduum.

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. Our Eastern friends can fill us Latins in.

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

I also recommend making a good confession. 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?”

You can, of course, with and as part of your full meal and two “snacks”(portions that wouldn’t make a full meal) . 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 do 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 or Good Friday.

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 – because tooth powder was in use back in the day).

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.

There’s always the Liquidum non frangit ieiunium mug.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mburn16 says:

    Good. Now can we proclaim a fasting from all the tomfoolery that seems to permeate so many Holy Thursday liturgies? Shofar + priest in jewish prayer shawl + communal bathing exercises + etc…

  2. mrbuccola says:

    Speaking of Confession, seems like all the churches in the Southern California area restrict Confession during Holy Week, leaving it to a single “everything must go” session, with extra priests. I’m sure this practice isn’t traditional, but alas!

  3. bombcar says:

    Could drinking from the mug count if you did everything else required for a partial indulgence meanwhile? The mug would be unnecessary but present.

  4. thomas tucker says:

    Interesting. I used to think that coffee and tea broke the Eucharistic fast, [They probably do.] but then decided that, since there was no caloric value to them, that they were enough like water, except in taste and color, to be considered like water for this question. [Nope.] Should we send a dubium? [No.]

  5. Clinton R. says:

    I did go to Confession this week, Father. Thank you for exhorting us to make use of this wonderful Sacrament Our Lord blessed His Church with, to free us of our sins. Thank you for your priesthood as we celebrate the institution of Holy Orders today.

  6. Admiral-GER says:

    What about beer? [Really?]

  7. hilltop says:

    Alas, I gave up coffee, including the excellent Mystic Monks’ excellent products, for Lent!

  8. raitchi2 says:

    I’d love to take your advice and “go to confession” but since saturday before palm sunday all my local parishes have suspended their confession offerings (5 parishes). A National Shrine nearby also suspended confession during triduum. It looks like I don’t have to worry about breaking the Eucharistic fast for Easter Since without confession it’s hard to be in a state of grace.

  9. Ages says:

    Eastern friend here – Holy Friday is traditionally a day of total abstinence for us, i.e., eat nothing. (Obviously if there are concerns of health or a physically laborious profession, common sense applies. As with most things, “ask your priest” is a good answer to this kind of question.) People are also expected to observe the day in quiet, prayerful reflection, avoiding entertainment and so forth.

    In an ideal world (perhaps in a monastery that follows the appointed times of the Typikon exactly) that would mean a lenten meal is eaten after the Vesperal Liturgy on Thursday afternoon, and no food is taken on Friday at all. Then Saturday’s Eucharistic fast begins at midnight, abstinence continues until after the Vesperal Liturgy on Saturday afternoon, at which time the traditional fare is a piece of bread, a little dried fruit, and a cup of wine. (Traditionally the entire Book of Acts is then read.) The Eucharistic fast goes until after the midnight Paschal Vigil and Liturgy.

    But for the vast majority of parishes (and even monasteries) that do not follow the prescriptions of the Typikon exactly, and who during Holy Week have evening services in the morning and morning services in the evening, practically speaking it means abstinence from midnight Friday until after the Vesperal Liturgy on Saturday morning. Saturday should be a day of rest and prayerful reflection as well, though not quite as austere as Friday.

    As an aside, I love this hymn from the Vespers of Holy Saturday: “Great Moses mystically prefigured this present day when he said, ‘And God blessed the seventh day.’ For this is the blessed Sabbath; this is the day of rest on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all his works, through the dispensation in accordance with death, he kept the Sabbath in the flesh; and returning once again to what he was through the Resurrection he has granted us eternal life, for he alone is good and loves mankind.”

    God give us all strength to complete the fast, according to whatever tradition we find ourselves in, and come to His glorious Resurrection.

  10. Fr. W says:

    Coffee, especially strong and black, does not break the fast….at least for those of us for whom it is medicinal. Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins in an hour and a half, at least 5 hours in the confessional tomorrow, and a growing awareness that all the things I thought I had prepared for the Vigil are not quite as prepared as I had thought. Pray for your priests the next few days!

  11. Charles says:

    Prummer advises that for the morning snack a piece of bread and 2 ounces of nourishing food is sufficient, and that for the afternoon or evening snack, 8 ounces of nourishing food is permitted to all.

    [Unreconstructed Ossified Manualists unite!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  12. JimP says:

    mrbuccola ,
    during my time in Orange County I did end up a couple of times at one of the high-volume sessions you mentioned.

    While I didn’t like them, it was better to be able to go to one of them than not being able to get to the typical 45 minutes on Saturday schedule.

    It would be even better if priests constantly exhorted people to go to Confession rather than only mentioning it during Lent, and made the sacrament more available during the other 46 weeks of the year.

    I was fortunate to find my parish in Northern California where the boxes are manned about 27 hours each week, with extended hours during Holy Week, including up until noon on Holy Saturday, and where the priests frequently encourage us to avail ourselves of the sacrament.

  13. aquinas138 says:

    The Byzantine (Ruthenian) Catholic Church in the US has followed the Latin rite to a certain extent – abstinence from meat is required on all Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent, with the the strict fast (abstinence from meat and dairy) on Clean Monday and Good Friday.

  14. The Drifter says:

    When a youth, I once asked my father the exact meaning of fasting. His reply was simple and straightforward: “It means feeling the hunger”, leaving me to figure out the practical side of the matter.

  15. Imrahil says:

    Speaking of coffee and the Eucharistic fast, I know it breaks the fast actually prescribed (one hour), but whenever I muster enough self-sacrifice to go I bit beyond that, I feel free treat coffee with complete indifference (other than in the last hour).

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