Friday, March 02, 2007

Why Do Catholics Abstain From Meat During Lent?

I have always wondered this?! And I have further wondered: is it a requirement or law (Canon Law) of the Catholic Church?

I've asked several Catholics and most all of them said because it is the Law of the Church. Some said they do it to be reverent of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. Others said because it is inconvenient and reminds us that we need to put God first.

Well here is what I found:

This was the main focus of my original post was:
"2) Fasting and abstinence is not part of Canon Law. In fact, Pope Paul VI, in an Apostolic Constitution titled: "(1966) Paul Apostolic constitution on Fasting and Abstinence in the Roman Catholic Church," said that fasting and abstinence from meat was to be voluntary --except for the Holy Days of obligation of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday."

"He (Pope Paul VI) further stated that he hoped that fasting and abstinence would be replaced by prayer and works of charity. "

Okay, initially, I searched the Vatican website and found it very cryptic with no specific information. So, I did a general search on Google and it turned up several Wikipedia Links. Then, I used this information along with other -- non Vatican websites -- write my original post.

I have since taken the specific terms found on and redid my search on the actual Vatican website to verify the information given on Wikipedia. Here is the link that I found on the Vatican website:

This reads like stereo instructions! But most of the information found on Wikipedia was correct.

There is such a thing as an "Apostolic Constitution," and Pope Paul VI did make a speech to the lay people of the church entitled "APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTION PAENITEMINI OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF PAUL VI ON FAST AND ABSTINENCE." Further this address was made in 1966: "Given at Rome, at St. Peter's, February 17, 1966, the third year of our pontificate."

If you scan down to Chapter III, most of the relevant and detailed information pertaining to fast and abstinence for the lay people can be found here.

The first two chapters are mainly philosophical and set the context for the third chapter.

It seems that Pope Paul VI sees a triad of: 1) Prayer, 2) Fasting & Abstinence, and 3) Charity
as essential to purifying oneself and making oneself worthy of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us by His death on the cross for our sins.

Further, it seems as if each of these 3 aspects is equally important. While the words "voluntary" are used w.r.t. fasting and abstinence it is still unclear to me on first reading if Fasting & Abstinence are truly voluntary for all Catholics? I will have to reread it.

Other websites also verified the following information from my original post:
"1) Fasting and abstinence during Lent is a tradition dating back to the earliest history of the Catholic Church. Originally fasting and abstinence from meat was supposed to be every single Friday, but it gradually evolved to only during Lent."

So now you know ...

Now I'd like to know:

Q: What do other religions do during Lent? Which religions observe Lent?

If you belong to another religion and know answers to these questions please leave me a comment. Thanks in advance for the info!

P.S. Here are my original sources for information:

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Follow-up: Tomb of Jesus Found?

Regarding my post on 3/27/07: Tomb of Jesus Found?

3/1/07 Chris Rosebrough wrote a comment that leads to his website: you will find it at Here Chris eloquently discusses the tomb that is the subject of the upcoming James Cameron film. Well written. Good reading. Check it out!