Ash Wednesday Fasting Rules in Canada


I know that in the United States, on Ash Wednesday people can eat two snacks and one full meal during the day. I live in Canada and told my parents these were the rules. If there are different rules for Canadians, please let me know so I can correct any errors I might have made. Thanks in advance!


The same fasting rules apply in Canada for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Unlike the US, we are not obligated to abstain from meat on Fridays of Lent although it is a good thing to do so.


From The Council of Canadian Bishops site (this is only part of the info.)

Living Lent

Lenten works: What should we be doing for Lent? Today the Church invites
us to prepare for Easter by doing individual penance and penance as a group; by reading God’s word more carefully; by praying more ardently, including sincere prayer for sinners; by giving of ourselves to the service of God’s people.

All weekdays in Lent are days of special penance. We are obliged to join the Church around the world in fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. On Good Friday and Holy Saturday we keep the solemn Paschal fast.

Ten forms of penance: These are “the top ten” in the tradition of the Christian people. They are our daily responsibility as believers; in Lent, we concentrate on them even more seriously.

Giving up sin. Jesus tells us that we show our love for him by keeping his commandments, especially by loving others as he has loved us. We are called to live blameless lives as God’s holy people, the Church. Our God wants us to turn away from our sins, our failings, our laziness in prayer, our unwillingness to do better.
Praying. Jesus and his apostles tell us to pray always, to be constant in prayer. Traditional times for Christians to pray are morning, evening and mealtimes. Personal prayer is a necessary preparation for our sharing in the Church’s public worship, the liturgy. In our love, we join Jesus and all God’s people in praying for ourselves, for our family and friends, for our leaders, for those who suffer, and for the Church and the world.
Fasting. Fasting means cutting down on the amount and richness of our food and drink. Done as a penance for sin, it helps us to pray better: an empty stomach can lead to more attentive prayer. The money we save on food should be given to others in alms. The law of fasting obliges adults until they are 60 years old.
Doing good works. Jesus went about doing good. The apostles continued to teach us to do good works, to help those in need, to give others the good example of our living, to pray for other people and to be ready to serve them in their time of need. The list is endless, but can be summarized in a few words: we are to help Jesus and come to his aid by helping other people in a spirit of love.
Giving alms. We give alms to help God’s poor and to support the good works of the Church and other positive agencies. Again our help is being given to Christ in his brothers and sisters. Many Churches encourage giving 10%—the biblical tithe—as the minimum gift to God and to God’s works. We do not give in order to show off or keep up with others; instead we give cheerfully to God, who has given us everything we have.
Abstinence. This form of penance needs to be seen as a near cousin of fasting. We may give up meat or other desirable foods on one or two days a week during Lent, especially on Friday, the day of Christ’s saving death on the cross. Our abstinence is another way of sharing in Christ’s work of saving the world.

Throughout the year, every Friday is a day of abstinence from meat, obliging all Catholics who are 14 years or older.

We may also substitute other good actions for abstinence from meat. These could include special acts of charity (visiting the sick or aged, helping those in any need, contributing time or money to a work of charity) or other acts of piety (taking part in a service of worship with others, praying with our family, spending some extra time in personal prayer, especially with God’s holy word in the scriptures).

Carrying out our duties of life. This is perhaps the hardest and most unrecognized form of penance. We serve God by living out our vocation in love each day. We do our best for God by being a good mother, father, teacher, worker, student, religious, minister, priest. God is calling each of us to be a living sacrifice, and to offer our daily life through Christ.
Meditative reading. In an age of constant bombardment by noise and sights, Christians need time to read and reflect. Believers have to nourish their faith by reading. Prayerful reading of God’s word each day opens our hearts to the Spirit, and lets God’s thoughts and ways influence ours. Reading other Christian books and magazines will help us to be stronger in our faith and in our living.
Controlling our desire for possessions. Jesus reminds us that our heart will be wherever our treasure is. He tells us to build up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. Today’s consumer is constantly tempted to buy more and more things: everything has to be newer, bigger, better—and automatic. As Christians, we should be cutting down on our possessions, eliminating frills, giving our surplus to others, lessening our wants, and sharing ourselves, our time, our talents and our possessions with others.
Controlling our desire for entertainment. Too much entertainment—by radio, TV, movies, spectator sports, light reading, distractions—can dull our taste for the things of God, and lead us to have no time for the works of the Lord.
Christians need to be a sign of contradiction to the world, and to spend more time in serving God and people.

***********Print enhancement is my own.

I have been totally frustrated in the past when trying to find out what we are obliged to do. Now, I think I have THE Canadian answer site.

I wonder though, why would Catholics differ in these regards?


I did not know that people from other countries practice Lent in a different way. I thought all over the world everyone did the same thing. But anyway here in South Africa this is how we fast.

Ash Wednesday begins the holy season of Lent. Millions of Catholics throughout the world will go to church to receive the blessed ashes. But how many will understand and act on the meaning of the "ashes ritual?"

*What does Lent call us to? *
It calls us to Repent and believe in the Gospel (these are the words the ministers will use as they place the ashes on your foreheads). In fact, the words are formulated in a question: Will you change your life and live the Good News? Our response is: "I will" or "I will try." If the decision to come forward for ashes is not accompanied by a decision to change our hearts, then we might as well remain at home.
In the First Reading on Ash Wednesday, the prophet, Joel, says to us "Let your hearts be broken not your garments torn." Thomas Morton has an interesting comment on the above verse. He writes:

"Rending only our garments
lets in nothing but the cold air,
but rending our hearts lets out sin
and lets in the clean air of God's spring."

The word "Lent" means "spring." Lent is intended to be a new spring in our lives, a time which we invigorate our faith. Lent calls us to a change of heart, attitude, behaviour and lifestyle. If we go through all the rituals and prayers and Masses of Lent but nothing is changing in our attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle, Jesus may very well say to us what he said to the Pharisees.

"This people honours me with their lips
But their hearts are far from me."

Baptismal Focus
In the Early Church, Lent was the final period of preparation for the Catechumens who were preparing for Baptism at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. This final time of preparation was called the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. Through acts of fasting, almsgiving, penance and several rites, the Catechumens were helped in their efforts to be purified of sin and enlightened by God's light and Word. For the already baptized, Lent in the Early Church was a period of ongoing conversion - a time to intensify their efforts to live out more fully their baptismal commitment which they renewed at Easter. So, for us who are baptized, Lent is also a time to deepen our commitment to Christ by trying to remove from our lives behaviour and attitudes that are contrary to the Lord’s teaching, e.g. speaking ill of others, judging others, wasting food, drinking too much alcohol, resentments, greed etc. It is a time to develop an attitude and behaviour that will make us more like Jesus, e.g., prayerfulness, reaching out to others in their need, patiently bearing our crosses, forgiving life's hurts, etc. Ideally, this Easter individually and as a community, we will be a little more like Jesus in our attitude, behaviour and lifestyle.

Three Traditional Lenten Practices
In Ash Wednesday's Gospel, Jesus speaks about prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are three traditional spiritual exercises to consider during Lent. Properly approached and utilized, they will indeed facilitate a genuine metanoia ~ change of heart and conversion in our lives. As one writer put it, "prayer, fasting and almsgiving are not the point of Lent. Rather, they are the tools of Lent."

*Prayer *
Prayer is turning to God. It involves making space for God in our lives. Authentic prayer involves "allowing God to have his way with us." In prayer, we stand, sit or kneel vulnerable before God asking him to show us where and how we need conversion and healing in our lives. The is the time now (if you haven’t done so already) to put into practise the prayer methodology given earlier this year.

*Fasting *
If Jesus fasted, we need to fast (unless our doctor tells us no to fast). Fasting can take many forms: less TV, alcohol, junk food, internet, shopping, negative talk. But we should all consider some form of fasting from food. Food is what Jesus fasted from. We need to experience hunger in the belly to identify just a small bit with starving people and to get in touch with the hungers of the soul. Ideally, our fasting is a means to an end. We fast from some shopping so that we may give to the poor. We fast from a half hour of TV to make space for prayer. Soup suppers on Friday after stations on Fridays. This is a sacrificial meal where you can donate what you would normally spend on dinner to Lenten Appeal.


*Almsgiving *
This is our way to reach out to the poor by sharing our money, clothing and food. You can give gifts of food, money and clothing by participating in our Grab-a-Bag project and our Winter project run by the SVDP
*Other Opportunities for Almsgiving *• There will be an Almsgiving collection on Ash Wednesday which will be given to SVDP for their projects.

• Second Collection every Sunday during Lent for the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal which enables the Church to plant seeds of Hope in our country.
• Mite Boxes for the children to draw them into an awareness of the needs of the poor and the sacrifices they can make to assist those less fortunate than themselves

*Prayer, fasting and almsgiving like three legs of a tripod, make up the traditional practices of Lent. *
• Prayer nourishes our spirits.
•Fasting disciplines our bodies and puts us in solidarity with those who suffer from hunger.
•Almsgiving enlarges our hearts as we commit ourselves to the good of others.

*Become an Ambassador of Reconciliation *
The second reading on Ash Wednesday encourages and calls on us to be Ambassadors of Reconciliation. We act on the words of St. Paul when we do what we can to bring peace and reconciliation to our relationships and relationships of family and friends.

*Deciding Your Lenten Practice *
There are many possibilities for Lenten exercises. Each of us has to decide for ourselves what is going to enhance our spiritual growth. Lent could be a time to give ourselves more fully to the duties of everyday life.

We could pray our prayers with more attention. Attend Mass more frequently than we already do, receive the Eucharist with greater devotion, spend time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, attend Stations of the Cross every Friday evening, pray together as a family, participate in the NSG Lenten faith-sharing.

We could try to be a more loving spouse, parent, son/daughter, brother/sister, friend, neighbour. We could make a better effort to let God into our day, our week, recreation, conversations, etc.

Practical Suggestions for the Lenten Season:
1. Attend a weekday Mass and receive the Eucharist;
2.Attend weekly Stations of the Cross – Fridays at 6.00pm;
3.Give up something non essential that you usually enjoy and or something that will make you a better person at the end of the Lenten Season;
4.Make a decision to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation – preferably as soon as possible and again during Holy Week;
5.Establish and maintain a daily routine of prayer. Use this daily programme to hear God’s Word and to reflect on it;
6.Pray a decade of the Rosary (Sorrowful Mysteries) every day;
7.Observe every Friday during Lent as a day of Prayer, Fast and Abstinence. Offer it for the return to the faith of those who have lapsed.
8.Make a weekly contribution to the Bishops’ Lenten Appeal;
9.Encourage a lapsed Catholic to attend Holy Mass and/or Stations of the Cross with you.
10.Participate in the St. Vincent de Paul ‘Grab a Bag’ and Winter project;
11.Remember to bring a tin of food to Mass for the Poor Basket;
12.Pray for the Catechumens and Candidates of our parish who will be
Baptised and/or Received into Full Communion with the Church at Easter. Get to know who they are and offer them encouragement and support.


[quote="mmarg77, post:3, topic:187219"]

I have been totally frustrated in the past when trying to find out what we are obliged to do. Now, I think I have THE Canadian answer site.

I wonder though, why would Catholics differ in these regards?


The Code of Canon Law gives the rules for penitential days

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.
Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.
Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

This is the CCCB's decree on the matter, submitted and accepted by Rome:

In accordance with the prescriptions of canon 1253, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the days of fast and abstinence in Canada are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays are days of abstinence, but Catholics can substitute special acts of charity or piety on this day.


As far as exactly how much food one may consume, the Church has never gone into the minutia. One ordinary meal was allowed and you could have 'some food' at two other times to keep working or to keep up your strength.

I work in an office, I don't need a whole heck of a lot to keep up my strength or keep working. A couple of glasses of juice (which is not considered food) through the day will keep me going until supper time. A labourer would obviously need more.

If we go by the idea of having two small meals that don't add up to a full meal, how do we define small meal? What's a small meal to one person would make another feel stuffed. Just eat less than you normally would.

Normally have 2 slices of toast with jam & cheese for breakfast? Have one slice and skip the jam &/or cheese.

I usually have a cereal bar and cheese. I'll probably just stick to coffee and a glass of juice.

Usually eat 2 sandwiches for lunch?

Have 1.

I normally have a big lunch. I'll probably have a piece of cheese and a glass of juice -- if I eat.

It's not that difficult -- our biggest problem is overthinking it or trying to measure it so that we just fall within the boundaries.


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