Why are even traditional Latin fasting practices so lax compared with Eastern practices? Even if one takes into account traditional Friday abstinence, Ember days, and traditional Advent / Lenten practices, they seem pretty insignificant compared to what is still the universal practice in the Orthodox Churches. My cousin, who is Orthodox, is currently in the midst of their “Apostles’ Fast”, a month long fasting period leading up to the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul…yet he noted what a “relaxed” fast it was as fish is permitted on certain days such as Sunday. During Lent, fish and dairy is forbidden leaving essentially just beans, vegetables, fruit, and bread. Every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year are fast days. The fact that Ember days include Wednesdays suggests to me that the Latin Church did once have a stricter fast practice, which would have included Wednesdays, but gradually relaxed the practice…a gradual relaxation that began long before the more radical relaxations that came after Vatican II.
On the other hand, we encourage daily mass, something you won’t find much in the East. I would consider carving out a chunk of your work day to get to the church for daily mass a very fruitful penance.

I wondered the same thing. I’m almost sure The Latin Church had a stricter fast then gradually relaxed. For example I have cousins that are part Sicilian so they passionately celebrate St Joseph’s Altar. The traditional altar had just bread and vegetables on it because of the Lenten fast. no meat, cheese, fish, dairy, or sweets. I don’t know why we Latins don’t fast as much. I believe it greatly helps us to humble ourselves and practice self control and to also be more like Christ. Just remember you can fast all you want you don’t need the Church to tell you too.

Fasting really isn’t for everyone. Take me, for an example:

I work nights. I woke up and had probably 2 serving spoons full of homemade cream corn. On my lunch break I might eat 5 or 6 bites of my salad that I brought.

The other night for lunch I had maybe 8 fresh cherries.

Depending on how I feel I may eat a little bit before I go to bed or I may just go to bed.

What the heck am I going to fast from? My tail never eats enough. Water only fast? :rotfl:

I am on medication that makes me not hungry. I do need to get some protein shakes or something, because me starving myself isn’t good, however, when it is time to fast, I really don’t need to. As it would be even less healthy for me.

That’s fine and understandable, but it doesn’t really answer the question. Even if you were Orthodox, I’m sure your situation could be addressed individually. There are always exceptions to universal norms. Even the very few fasting requirements that still exist in the Latin Church do not apply to those who are not able to fast for medical reasons.

I’m just kinda glad that we don’t have to fast often, because I feel bad. People give other examples like watching less TV (too busy to watch) Like I feel like I’m just sitting here not doing what I’m supposed to, so I’m kinda fine with our relaxed fasting.:blush: I already have anxiety, nothing like feeling the anxiety of not doing good enough. Ya know?

How are feast days “feast” days in the Catholic Church if you barely do any fasting? How are they a celebration if they are much the same as most days of the year?

Fasting isn’t just a way of training in discipline, which helps us to say no to the stronger temptations we face, it also provides a cultural background where feast days truly are what they are called.

I’ve always wondered this myself. Not that I’m great at fasting myself - I almost never manage to keep them - but even traditional fasting practices seem lax compared to the Orthodox, and Vatican II pretty much abolishing the practice of fasting entirely is something that I can’t for the life of me figure out, and I doubt that any apologist would be able to seriously defend.

One thing I’ve noticed, that I quite like about the Orthodox fasts, is that they’re based on humility rather than “pious practice”. For instance, an Orthodox father once told me that it’s actually considered preferable to break a fast rather than tell someone that you’re fasting. There’s a story that goes around in Orthodox circles about the priest who was invited to a Lenten barbecue eating the cheeseburger and only then informing the parishioner that it’s forbidden.

Sort of the whole point of fasting is to be humbled and feel bad about yourself. Keeping a fast in order to be considered “rightous” is missing the point of the fast entirely. The point of a fast is repentance, of taking responsibility for your sins. When the Bible speaks about sackcloth and ashes, you essentially substitute the word “fasting” and you’ve got all the theology behind it right there.

I generally agree- that’s why I started this thread. However, there are other ways in which the Latin tradition distinguishes feasts from ordinary days. For one, the mass is supposed to be celebrated in a more solemn manner (addition of the Gloria, ideally more chant and incense, etc…the traditional Western distinction between High and Low masses). For another, feasts of the highest rank are to be treated like Sunday’s- if possible we are to avoid unnecessary labour and devote ourselves to prayer, family time, and works of charity.
It’s also Important to remember that every Friday remains a universal day of abstinence, and even in those countries where the bishops have allowed the faithful to substitute another form of penance, every Frjday remains a day of penance while every Sunday remains a day of feasting.
…but even so my original question in the OP remains. And it baffles me.

I can understand that. That’s why its important to address such concerns with a trusted spiritual director :).

I didn’t say that we should fast to feel righteous and I wasn’t trying to imply that, either.

Do us regular catholics even have fasting anymore? We have two days of mandated three meals, usually with fish. Fasting has been legislated out.

I thought it was 2 snack size meals and 1 regular meal. Technically, it is 3 meals, but 2 of them aren’t a “real” meal.

The horror, it sounds like plenty of regular days when I have work. Essentially post Vatican 2 it was made clear that fasting is no longer necessary.

Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way.

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

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.

Can 1249: vague to the point of being a non rule and a non practiced one

Can 1250. The vast majority of Catholics have been told that meat on Friday (eat normally) is now okay and do eat it. Lent seems to be a country by country basis and in America its loudly proclaimed that eating meat on Friday is good.

Can 1253 Yes and like very often certain bishop conferences choose to eliminate it. For whatever reason the American bishops completely got rid of it.

  1. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year
  1. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.
  1. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for penance.


I think the primary reason was a desire to eliminate mandatory practices and instead encourage voluntary actions. The idea was that voluntary actions would more likely be reflective of salutary, internal dispositions while mandatory penance can be external only, with no corresponding, internal conversion. There was also a “decentralizing” aspect, so that each episcopal conference was given more latitude in determining the precise nature of penitential practices.

You can see this in Paul VI’s *Paenitemini * and, for a local example, in the U.S. bishops 1966 statement on penance.

Whether or not this change from mandated penance to voluntary has produced its intended fruit is…debatable…maybe.


This is a good explanation of the post-VII reforms, but even long before Vatican II the norms were very relaxed compared to modern Orthodox practices.

I’ve had half a bowl of chef boyardee in the past 20 hours. Lol

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