Author: Matthew Plese
So What Should Traditional Catholics Do To Restore the Lenten Fast?
While no authority in the Church may change or alter any established dogmas of the Faith, the discipline of both Holy Days of Obligation and fast days may change. The days of obligation and the days of penance are matters of discipline, not matters of dogma. Lawful authorities in the Church do have the power to change these practices.
In the observance of the two precepts, namely attending Holy Mass on prescribed days and fasting and abstaining on commanded days, we obey them because the Church has the power by Christ to command such things. We do not abstain from meat on Fridays for instance because the meat is unclean or evil. It is the act of disobedience that is evil. As Fr. Michael Müller remarks in his Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine from 1874: “It is not the food, but the disobedience that defiles a man.” To eat meat on a forbidden day unintentionally, for instance, is no sin. As the Scriptures affirm it is not what goes into one’s mouth that defiles a man but that disobedience which comes from the soul (cf. Matthew 15:11).
Yet, even with such a distinction, the Church has historically been wise to change disciplines only very slowly and carefully. As Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once remarked, “It is a long-established principle of the Church never to completely drop from her public worship any ceremony, object or prayer which once occupied a place in that worship.” The same may be said for matters concerning either Holy Days of Obligation or fast days. What our forefathers held sacred should remain sacred to us in an effort to preserve our catholicity not only with ourselves but with our ancestors who see God now in Heaven.
St. Francis de Sales remarked in the 16th / early 17th century, “If you’re able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church.”
This Lent, I propose for Traditional Catholics the following Lenten fasting plan:
- Fasting applies for those age 18 or older (but not obligatory for those 60 years of age or older)
- Ash Wednesday and Good Friday: No solid food. Only black coffee, tea, or water.
- Mondays through Saturdays: Only one meal preferably after sunset. A morning frustulum and evening collation are permitted but not required. No meat or animal products are allowed for anyone, regardless of age – that includes fish. No olive oil.
- Sundays: No meat or animal products allowed except on Laetare Sunday. Exceptions for Palm Sunday are mentioned below.
- Annunciation Day (March 25) and Palm Sunday: Fish and olive oil permitted.
- Holy Week (except Good Friday): Only Bread, Salt, and Herbs are permitted for the main meal. Frustulum and collation permitted (of bread, herbs, and salt) but omitted if possible
- Holy Saturday: No food until Noon. Abstinence including from all animal products continues until Easter begins.
Interested in learning more about fasting and abstinence? Check out Matthew’s definition guide here