Meatless Meals and Fasting
Well, traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality states that such is part of repentance and is some form of penance. That not doing so would render the Christian unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38). Jesus himself said that his disciples would fast once he had departed (Lk. 5:35).
To ensure that its faithful will do something, as required by divine law, the Catholic Church, specified certain forms of penance; while making it easy to meet the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations.
Abstinence – a Catholic 14 years of age until death is required to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. By meat, it is meant the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. The Vatican has, nonetheless, specified the exemption of eggs, milk products of milk, and condiments made of animal fat.
Both my kids are still below the required age for abstinence, but my husband and I believe it is never too young to start the practise. So we only prepare 1 dish for all meals for Fridays. I have, however, added Thursday dinners to be meatless, as well, so my kids can have leftovers for Friday lunch in school.
Fasting – a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday ([i.e., the beginning of the 60th year, a year that will be completed on the 60th birthday) is required to decrease the normal amount of food eaten. The Vatican defines fasting as allowing “only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing — as far as quantity and quality are concerned — approved local custom.”
Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but it is important to note that eating between meals and drinking what could be considered food like milk shakes (but not milk) breaks the fast. Although alcohol does not break the fast, it would be contrary to the spirit of penance. The sick, unsound mind, pregnant or nursing mums, the frail are excused from fasting.
My kids are too young too, but we continue to educate them the importance and true sense of such penance. We encourage them to make personal sacrifices like no Xbox playing on Fridays, giving up ice cream or lollies the whole Lenten season; stressing that such sacrifice is personal and that they need not tell us or anyone else, because their relationship with God is a personal one. So they offer to Jesus whatever sacrifice they can do.
“In thinking about Christ’s death, we find ourselves invited to take a good hard look at our everyday activities and to be serious about the faith we profess. Holy Week cannot be a kind of ‘religious interlude’, time taken out from a life which is completely caught up in human affairs. It must be an opportunity to understand more profoundly the love of God, so that we’ll be able to show that love to other people through what we do and say”.
— St. Josemaría, Christ is Passing By, n. 97