Church Laws of Fast and Abstinence
The uniform norms for fast and abstinence adopted in 1951 by the bishops of the United States were somewhat modified at their November 1956 meeting. The regulations on this matter now reads as follows:
1. Everyone over seven years of age is bound to observe the law of abstinence.
2. Complete abstinence is to be observed on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the Vigils of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas. On days of complete abstinence, meat and soup or gravy made from meat may not be used at all.
3. Partial abstinence is to be observed on Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays and on the Vigil of Pentecost. On days of partial abstinence, meat and soup or gravy made from meat may be taken only once a day at the principal meal.
1. Everyone over 21 and under 59 years of age is also bound to observe the law of fast.
2. The days of fast are the weekdays of Lent, including Holy Saturday, the Ember Days and Vigils of Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception and Christmas.
3. On days of fast, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to one's needs; but together they should not equal another full meal.
4. Meat may be taken at the principal meal on a day of fast except on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the Vigils of the Immaculate Conception and Christmas.
5. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and fruit juces, are allowed.
6. Where health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige. In doubt concerning fast or abstinence, a parish priest or confessor should be consulted.
* There is no obligation for fast or abstinence on a holy day of obligation, even if it falls on a Friday.
The New Eucharistic Fast Laws
(Motu Proprio of Pope Pius XII of March 19, 1957)
1. Priests and faithful before Mass or Holy Communion respectively - whether it is the morning, afternoon, or evening or Midnight Mass - must abstain for three hours from solid foods and alcoholic beverages, and for one hour from non-alcoholic beverages. Water does not break the fast.
2. The infirm, even if not bedridden, may take non-alcoholic beverages and that which is really and properly medicine, either in liquid or solid form, before Mass or Holy Communion without any time limit.
His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, earnestly exhorts priests and faithful who are able to do so to observe the old and venerable form of the Eucharistic Fast (from foods and liquids from midnight) before Holy Communion. All those who will make use of these concessions must compensate for the good received by becoming shining examples of a Christian life and principally with works of penance and charity.