Abstaining from Meat

Abstaining from Meat

On Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays during Lent, Catholics 14 years of age and older are required to abstain from eating meat. Unlike fasting, which is eating less food, abstaining means avoiding certain foods.

Every Friday of the year recalls when Jesus’ sacrificed his flesh on the Cross on Good Friday. On Fridays during Lent, Catholics join themselves to his suffering by abstaining from the flesh of mammals and poultry.

Catholics also abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. Catholics fast and abstain on that solemn day while contemplating their mortality and their need to repent from sin.

Meat is an expensive delicacy in many cultures and is associated with feasting and celebrating, so abstaining and substituting with a more common or less desirable food is considered to be a sacrifice.

By not eating meat, which is good and necessary, Catholics show that they are even more dependent on God. The physical hunger that results from abstaining serves as a reminder of their spiritual hunger for God.

Practicing penitential acts such as abstaining from meat is a way for Catholics to develop self-control, build discipline, and exercise mastery over bodily passions so that they grow in holiness.

Abstaining from meat is intended to be a sacrifice so a Catholic who eats food that they enjoy even more than meat on Fridays during Lent is missing the point of the practice. 

A Catholic farewell to meat:


Abstinence is a form of denying yourself of something:


In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.

Daniel 10: 2-3

Giving up meat on the day Jesus gave up his life:

Grotto Network

Friday is a day of preparation for Sunday and Jesus’ Resurrection:

Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux

The flesh of mammals and birds has been associated with celebration:


In the very first pages of Sacred Scripture, the Lord commands man to abstain from partaking of the prohibited fruit: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die”. Commenting on the divine injunction, Saint Basil observes that “fasting was ordained in Paradise,” and “the first commandment in this sense was delivered to Adam.” He thus concludes: “ ‘You shall not eat’ is a law of fasting and abstinence”.

Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent, 2009

Abstinence and other Lenten disciplines should carry into the whole year:

Bridgeport Diocese

The fourth precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2043

The Church’s law regarding abstinence is a serious matter:

Catholic Answers

Friday meals during Lent should be simple:

Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Reaching out to the peripheries:

Catholic Extension

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