Ash Wednesday Fasting Rules

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According to, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 must fast on Ash Wednesday. Fasting entails eating one regular-sized meal and two small meals daily.

All Catholics 14 years old and up should abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays during Lent. Last year, during his Ash Wednesday mass in Rome, Pope Francis talked about the true meaning of fasting. “Fasting makes sense if it really chips away at our security and, as a consequence, benefits someone else, if it helps us cultivate the style of the good Samaritan, who bent down to his brother in need and took care of him,” he said.

The Pope explained that fasting ” is a sign of becoming aware of and taking responsibility for injustice and oppression, especially of the poor and the least, and is a sign of the trust we place in God and his providence.”

The Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his column for Catholic New York also explained his view of fasting. “Jesus doesn’t really tell us what we should exactly do for penance—although He does extol fasting, cutting down seriously on food—but He sure insists that we undergo some self-sacrifice. Yes, it may be eating less, giving up certain foods, or doing laudable acts we find tough,” he said.

Although some people fast and give up something during Lent, these actions are supposed to be done introspectively. In the Bible, Jesus said, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:16-18).