Fasting and abstinence guides for Lent, beginning March 1

The holy season of Lent is a time for spiritual renewal so that people of faith may become better instruments in sharing the Gospel message.

This year, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, falls on March 1. The present laws of the Church regarding fast and abstinence during this season are as follows:

1 Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. On days of fast, one full meal is allowed. Two lesser meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted. Catholics who have completed their 18th year are bound by this law until the beginning of their 60th year.

2 Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent are also days of abstinence. On days of abstinence, meats should not be taken at any meal. The law of abstinence binds all Catholics who have completed their 14th year.

The obligation to observe, as a whole or “substantially,” the penitential days specified by the Church is a serious obligation. According to the Code of Canon Law, the faithful are to devote themselves to prayer, engage in works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and observing the guides for fast and abstinence.


Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone has given Catholics in the Diocese of Charleston a dispensation to eat meat on March 17, St. Patrick’s feast day, which falls on a Friday during Lent this year. Read more about the dispensation here.