The point, really, is for the Fridays of Lent to be days of simplicity and even a bit of hunger- while seafood is allowed, a butter-soaked lobster probably misses that point.
All Catholics age 14 and older are expected to abstain from meat, although those who can't do so for health reasons, along with pregnant and nursing women, are obviously exempted.
I have heard the Fridays of Lent referred to as "days of abstinence." Usually when the Church talks about abstinence…
This is a surprisingly common question. When the Church talks about abstinence in this context, she is referring to abstention from eating meat.
What about fasting? When do I fast? And what do I do?
The two required days of fasting during Lent are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These are also days of abstinence. All Roman Catholics who are 18 but not yet 59 are required to both fast and abstain from meat on those days.
In 1966, Pope St. Paul VI said that the Church's "law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening." This is often taken to mean that the most Catholics should eat on a day of fasting is one normal sized meal--with no meat--and two smaller snacks.
Those who wish for a more intense fast are not prohibited from more fasting, but this is generally a good idea to discuss with a spiritual director, confessor, or pastor.
Wait-- so I'm 60, and my grandson is 17. Does that mean we don't have to fast?
That's correct. You are not required by canon law to fast- though you are still bound by the law of abstinence. This means that whether to fast should be a matter for your discernment, perhaps with some guidance from your pastor or confessor.
What about candy? Should I give that up? What's that about anyway? I don't even like candy.
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I like candy. But here a few thoughts on what to do for a fruitful Lent:
The season of Lent emphasizes three things: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Prayer means prayer, that's pretty simple. Almsgiving refers to acts of charity or generosity. And fasting refers to going without something, especially something on which we've become dependent, something we think we can't live without, or something that distracts us from God.
Actually, these three themes are related directly to the three temptations Christ faced in the desert, and you can read about that here.
But for a fruitful Lent, it is helpful to decide on one practice for each of those themes. To find some practice of prayer you can add to your day. To decide on some act of charity or work of mercy you'll take up. And to decide what you can fast from- it might be food, like candy, or it might be your phone, or music and news on the car radio, or soda.
The key is to choose something that you will sustain the whole of Lent, and something that does not gravely disrupt your family life or the people around you. If you drive miles to work, don't give up driving. If you take care of young children, don't commit to all-night prayer vigils, at least not every night.
Ideally, the practices of prayer we commit to will become incorporated into our regular lives, and our sacrifices and almsgiving might become something we continue to do as well.