Is a Catholic fast sufficient in God's eyes?

The Catholic fast, if memory serves me correct, is a fast in which you are allowed to eat 1 large meal, and 2 other small meals which together do not comprise the large meal. What I wanted to know was that would this be appreciated by God? I was brought up with the belief that a fast was going without food for 24 hours (or some time close to that figure) since the “pain” that derives from such fast exists. I can’t really say such about a Catholic fast from the way it’s described.

Thank you,
**Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Sufficient…for what?


What I mean is that, would God consider it as a “proper fast”, especially for penance?

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

I believe He would. You’re depriving yourself of food and having low energy levels for Him. So long as you don’t go hungry enough to make yourself irritable, this would be good spiritually.

I have never found this anywhere in official Catholic teaching. I have always understood that it was one normal meal and two smaller meals.

Does anyone have where the “together do not comprise the large meal” came from?

Why would it not be?

I thought so, but chances are I’m mistaken (in which case, sincere apologies!), But I do know with absolute certainty that one large meal and two smaller meals are allowed to be eaten.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Look at this for example:

“The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal in quantity.” ( )

It would seem to make sense. If for instance a cake was given a value of 1, and half a cake was given a value of 0.5, then eating 1 cake and 2 of the smaller “half-cakes” would altogether add up to 2 cakes that were eaten during the fast. If the cakes were a quarter, therefore given a value of 0.25, then in total, only 1.5 cakes would be eaten, and it would seem to still be in the spirit of the fast. But then again, both me and EWTN could be incorrect. Hopefully someone more knowledgeable helps us both!

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Not sure where it came from, but that was always my understanding. The 2 small meals combined have to be less than the large (normal) meal.

In short, yes the “Catholic fast” is sufficient in God’s eyes provided that (as in all things) the spirit behind the fast is proper.

You are right in that fasting generally implies something more severe than the guidelines require. However, as with many things, the Church has found it necessary to provide these guidelines in order to address possible abuses and problems. For instance:

  1. Persons who might abuse fasting to the detriment of their health. People who are tend toward Scrupulocity, or those given to depression might overdo fasting - for the wrong reasons. The rules can help to prevent such abuse.
  2. Many people cannot “take off work” or otherwise set aside their normal duties and routine for the purpose of observing a complete fast. Therefore they need food in order to perform required tasks.

To address these types of issues, the Church has devised the rules governing fasting that perhaps seem quite lenient. Naturally if one is healthy and is so inclined, and if their circumstances permit, they may observe a total fast.


I guess I would like a reference to the CCC, rather than someone saying, “this is what the Church says” or at least from the USCCB site. Because just going by having one large meal and two smaller ones that don’t exceed the large meal, means I could eat 2 lbs of meat, 5 lbs of potatoes with 3 different kinds of veggies for my main meal and then overeat again for the 2 “smaller” meals. :shrug:

This is what I found.

Fasting—By refraining from eating, we signify our oneness with the Lord, acknowledge our need for conversion, and give witness to our solidarity with those less fortunate. Catholics who are eighteen years and older and in good health are bound until their fifty-ninth birthday by the obligation to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Traditionally, the canonical obligation of fasting has been understood in the Church as the taking of only one full meal a day.

I’ve usually heard it expressed as one MODERATE meal rather than a ‘large’ one (which makes me think the word ‘moderate’ must be in a document somewhere). By that wording the 2lb of meat etc etc wouldn’t be appropriate.

On a lighter note, nice signature :thumbsup:

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

Nothing that we do is sufficient to express our love for God. So, yes, it is sufficient.

Modern Catholic Dictionary (Father John Hardon):

FASTING. A from of penance that imposes limits on the kind or quantity of food or drink. From the first century Christians have observed fasting days of precept, notably during the season of Lent in commemoration of Christ’s passion and death. In the early Church there was less formal precept and therefore greater variety of custom, but in general fasting was much more severe than in the modern Church. In the East and West the faithful abstained on fasting days from wine as well as from flesh-meat, both being permitted only in cases of weak health. The ancient custom in the Latin Church of celebrating Mass in the evening during Lent was partly due to the fact that in many places the first meal was not taken before sunset.

The modern Church regulations on fasting, until 1966, prescribed taking only one full meal a day, along with some food for breakfast and a collation. Days of fast and abstinence for the universal Church were Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays of Lent, Ember days, and the vigils of certain feasts. Days of fast only were the rest of the days of Lent, except Sundays. Special indults affected different nations and were provided for by canon law.

With the constitution Paenitemini of Paul VI in 1966, the meaning of the law of fasting remained, but the extent of the obligation was changed. Thus “the law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, while observing approved local custom as far as quantity and quality of food are concerned.” To the law of fast are bound those of the faithful who have completed their eighteenth year and up until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Prescribed days of fast and abstinence for the whole Church are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Nevertheless, as with abstinence, so with fasting or other forms of penance, “It is up to the bishops, gathered in their episcopal conferences, to establish the norms . . . which they consider the most opportune and efficacious” (Paenitemini, III). In the Eastern rites it is the right of the patriarch, together with the synod or supreme authority of every rite, to determine the days of fast and abstinence in accordance with the decree of the Second Vatican Council for Eastern Churches.

Would anyone agree that the submission of obedience would be as pleasing or even more so to God than fasting taken beyond what the Church requires because one decides it is insufficient? Who am I to judge the effectiveness of the fast prescribed by the Church?

If, with the approval of one’s confessor or spiritual director, one decides to fast beyond what is required out of love, that’s great. Other than that, one must be very careful to avoid pride.


But what the Church says on fasting, is if I’m not mistaken, not infallible. So it could change at any point in time.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

I like this response :thumbsup:. Thank you JRKH.

Thank you,
Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

I don’t believe there’s a certain degree of fasting which is efficacious and that the Church claims to have discovered it. I believe that the submission of one’s will is the important thing here, and that God desires obedience more than sacrifice. I know that’s in scripture somewhere…

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