Published On: Tue, Feb 13th, 2018

Lent 2018 fasting: Why give up meat or alcohol for Lent? 

Catholics practice various acts of penitence and spiritual self-discipline during the 46 days leading up to Easter.

One of those disciplines is for Catholics under the age of 14 and until death to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent in honour of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday.

This law is more lenient compared to centuries ago, when Catholics had to avoid consuming meat on all Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays during Lent.

The rule was relaxed in 1966, with the blessing of Pope Paul VI, so meat would only be prohibited on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of the Lenten season.

Catholics are obligated to observe this fast as a minimum, but they can make stricter rules for themselves if they wish.

The reason for Catholics to abstain from eating meat on Fridays is to remind them that Jesus died on Friday and he gave up his body (his flesh) and for Catholics to attain greater communion with Christ, they refrain from consuming flesh.

There are exceptions for people who are ill, pregnant or breast-feeding mothers.

Meat has been singled out to abstain from, because it is associated with celebrations and feasts, however there are varying definitions over what is defined as abstinence from meat.

In some regions of the world, Catholics abstain from all meat and all animals products, whereas others make exceptions for fish.

Many people choose to give something up during this special religious period, and giving up alcohol is a popular practice.

During Lent, many Christians commit to fasting for the 40 days, not including Sundays, between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday.

Fasting means only having one full meal and two smaller meals, fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and for Catholics between the age of 18 and 59. 

The fast is broken by eating meals and by drinks which could be considered food, such as milkshakes.  

Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast, however they seem to be contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

However, Christians and Catholics may choose to give up the vice of drinking alcohol as it does not adhere to the values of Lent of prayer, penance, repentance and self-denial. 

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