In the Diocese of Baton Rouge, as in the rest of
the Church in the United States, Catholics aged 18 through 59 are bound by a grave
obligation to observe a solemn fast on both Ash Wednesday and
Good Friday. Catholics aged 14 and up are to abstain from meat on Ash
Wednesday, all Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday as well. These norms have been
established by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in accord with the norms
of canons 1249-1253 in the revised Code of Canon Law of 1983.
To fast means
to consume only one full meal a day at most, although taking of other, smaller
quantities of food at the other customary mealtimes is permitted. Food and
drink "between meals" (excepting only water and medicine) is not
permitted on fast days.
To abstain from meat means refraining from eating beef, veal, pork, or
poultry at least, although not necessarily eggs, milk products, or meat broths
or condiments made from animal fat. The consumption of fish, shellfish, and
reptiles (e.g., turtle, alligator) is permitted if desired.
In addition to the mandatory days listed above,
abstinence from meat on every Friday throughout the year which is not a
Solemnity, and fasting on all Lenten weekdays (especially Wednesdays and
Fridays) and on Holy Saturday, is strongly recommended to all the
faithful. There always remains, of course, the grave obligation to participate
at Holy Mass on all Sundays and days of obligation.
Each in his or her own way, every Christian is bound
to do penance by virtue of divine law. Only ill health or some similar
situation of urgency excuses. During the Lenten season, Christ Jesus' own
challenges to "prayer, fasting and almsgiving" are paramount (see
the Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday, Mt 6:1-6, 16-18). We seek ongoing
forgiveness for sin (especially in the Sacrament of Penance) and come to
appreciate ever more the great sufferings and sacrifice which Our Savior
experienced for the sake of our salvation.
All diocesan clergy (priests and deacons) and
those religious priests who have legitimate residence and active ministry
within the Diocese of Baton Rouge have been delegated the power to dispense
the faithful of the diocese, in individual cases and for a just reason, from
the obligation to observe a particular day of penance, or to commute some or
all of its obligations to other pious works. Included in this is the faculty to
dispense from the Lenten obligations to fast and abstain from meat. Yet the
obligation to do some kind of penance remains a serious one, and is not taken
lightly by a good Catholic.