“Ask a Priest: What If I Want to Fast All Year Round?”

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Q: If I want to fast or abstain all year round, what should I to know or consider before doing it? I work full time so I don’t know what I should or shouldn’t do. I am 5-foot-2 and weigh about 100 pounds. What dates or season in a year should a person not fast or abstain? How many days in a week could I fast? Besides food, is there anything that I could think about abstaining from? Thanks for your advice – H.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It is admirable that you feel a desire to fast. Fasting usually means limiting oneself to one light meal a day, with two smaller meals that don’t add up to a full meal.

In general terms, Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. During Fridays in Lent they should abstain from meat.

During the other Fridays of the year, it is advisable to make some kind of sacrifice. Abstinence from meat is the normal thing in the U.S., though a Catholic could use another sacrifice.

Fasting and abstaining in earlier times was a regular part of Catholic life.

If you want to fast or abstain often, it is good to have a spiritual reason for doing so, which means doing it for the glory of God and the good of others. We can offer up fasting and other sacrifices for the conversion and salvation of souls, including our own.

Regarding the frequency and extent of fasting, it is ultimately a prudential decision.

If you are working full time and if you have responsibilities for others (children, elderly parents, or hospital patients, for instance), you want to be sure to maintain your strength.

My general suggestion is to use moderation in fasting. There are other forms of sacrifice that you might also consider embracing, such as extra prayers, daily Masses occasionally, almsgiving, and the effort to simply accept with love and patience the daily crosses that inevitably come along.

It would be good, too, to check with your confessor or spiritual director about particulars, since they would know your situation better.


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One Comment
  1. In other words, don’t be scrupulous and don’t ‘fast’ and then ‘talk of it’ to others. When you fast, do not look glum . . . As the Savior ‘came down to earth’ and lived as all others (except in Sin) DO ‘for the glory of God’
    alone. Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

    I recall one lent when I fasted from writing emails (personal emails) also fasted from social media, in fact I deleted Facebook from my ‘appetite’ (I wanted to see what it was about, but it really is a ‘gossip mongering thing’ (like congregating all day at the local coffee shop) FAST from tv and spend time visiting an elder
    relative (or doing for the elder relative or neighbor) Or spend time with ‘the kids’ if you have kids in a local park in evening (get away from TV)

    If shopping is a hang up… stay away from all unnecessary buying for one month and give the savings to
    (a bono fide charity) LOTS OF WAYS TO PART FROM the material world… but SHHHH better if you don’t tell anyone what you do… as biblically stated: When you fast DON’T GO OUT INTO THE STREET and tell what you are doing. YES, attending daily Mass when you can . . . brings GREAT NEW WISDOM for living!

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