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