Lenten rules and diabetics


Is a diabetic not required to follow the dietary rules we have for the lenten season? I think it’s only fish on Friday or something?


Not necessarily.

Being diabetic all by itself does not exempt one from the fasting and abstinence.

However, if the fasting and/or abstinence causes health problems, then by all means the person is exempt.


A person can be dispensed from fast or abstinence if they cannot do it. A diabetic could likely still abstain from meat, but may not be able to fast. it’s an individual situation they should discuss with their doctor.

Fish on Friday is not a requirement. The requirement is abstinence from meat.


Well if it involves staying away from meat I’m all for it all year around! So are you not allowed to eat meat now except on Friday and that’s only fish?


those who have medical issues or are between the ages of 1-17 or 59+ years they are not obligated to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

If meat is a part of your medical diet then obviously you shouldn’t fast from that, but other than that I would suggest trying to eat in a way that keeps your blood sugar in check but that also avoids meat on fridays. My guess is that it is possible.

Note: those under the age of 13 are not required to fast from meat on Fridays.


I wanted so much to go to Mass for Ash Wednesday and usually do. But I had a docs appointment. And I guess it’s not a day of obligation and I thought it was.


it is not :slight_smile:


Not quite.

Fasting for a Catholic means restricting your food intake to one normal meal plus 2 smaller meals which do not equal one normal meal combined and no between meal snacking.

Abstinence is refraining from eating meat.

Fasting is not recommended for diabetics because they need to maintain their blood sugar at acceptable levels. Abstinence does not affect blood sugar and so may be undertaken without health risk to the diabetic. However, the self-discipline required to follow a diabetic diet can be offered in the place of the self-discipline offered through fasting and abstinence.

The Holy Season of Lent

The Church, therefore, has two forms of official penitential practices - three if the Eucharistic fast before Communion is included.

The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Meat is considered to be the flesh and organs of mammals and fowl. <…> Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted, as are animal-derived products such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste.

The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday [Canon 97] to the 59th Birthday * to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. 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. Such fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The fast is broken by eating between meals and by drinks which could be considered food (milk shakes, but not milk). Alcoholic beverages do not break the fast; however, they seem contrary to the spirit of doing penance.

Those who are excused from fast or abstinence:
Besides those outside the age limits, those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, pregnant or nursing women according to need for meat or nourishment, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offense or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline.*
Other penances may be substituted which do not affect blood sugar/health, such as praying, or doing charitable works.

Lent Fasting And Abstinence Rules 2014: How To Start Penance On Ash Wednesday

[quote]Lent isn’t solely about not eating meat, and the restriction of food isn’t the only way penance can be carried out. Pope Paul IV reminded Catholics that they should forgive and show love for others just as they ask for God’s love and forgiveness. The Code of Canon Law and bishops recommend going to Mass daily or several times a week, making the sign of the cross, praying the rosary, reading to the blind, teaching the illiterate to read, volunteering time at a soup kitchen or even giving an overworked mother a break by babysitting; tasks like these can be more meaningful than simply abstaining from meat on Fridays.



Diabetics are exempt from all fasting requirements and any other person with a health problem that regulates intake of food. They can still observe Fish on Fridays, but because their blood sugar can fluctuate they can eat what they need when they need to, so they can regulate their blood sugar.


As an insulin dependent diabetic, I can tell you with certainty, that it is very important that you keep your blood glucose readings as close to your target as you can.

If that means that you cannot follow the Lenten dietary rules, you are dispensed. This also includes the 1 hour Eucharistic fast.

Of course, if you can adjust your meal times, and your diet to fall within the Lenten rules, you should do so.

You don’t want to go low…it’s dangerous, and can be fatal.

As others have said, check with your doctor, or your diabetes educator to be sure about your particular case.


Hi billcu1,

I would definitely check with your doctor/health care team regarding fasting for Lent.

Each of us who are diabetic faces a different need regarding our dietary needs and eating schedule. As you already know, each of us have to be careful with our blood sugar and insulin levels.


I think the word you are looking for is “Abstain”.


I don’t really understand why this would be an issue unless your diabetes or hypoglycemia are not under control - in which case, talk with your Pastor about a dispensation from the fast for medical reasons.

I’ve grown up with hypoglycemia (which is a real joy to live with when it’s out of control - and just as deadly for the person that has this condition as diabetes if not monitored and maintained) in the household and I assure you that with reasonable care the fast is not a really big issue given the number of meals/snacks and variety in the diet plan, it’s making the effort to monitor the blood sugar levels that’s the issue!


The abstinence from meat is only on Fridays during Lent and Ash Wednesday (in the US). In th UK, the abstinence from meat is year round on Fridays and I do not know about the particular laws of other countries.

Fish is not meat. Therefore, on Fridays one may eat fish if one chooses.


Every person is different.

Some might be able to keep fast and abstinence with no issues; some might have severe issues in keeping one or the other. It all depends on the individual.

That’s why being diabetic is not a reason, all by itself, for one to be exempt from the Lenten regulations. It might be, or it might not be.


Ok I have forgotten since last year. I have never fasted because I am diabetic and was told I am exempt from this. I want to go to confession tomorrow because I am moving and can get back into Mass regularly. I also didn’t think and ate a hamburger today. Now it’s Friday so what I should’ve done then was got Fish right? Do I need provided I get to confession tomorrow to confess that I had beef today because I forgot? Is that mortal or venial sin or neither since I forgot?


What do you mean fish isn’t meat? You mean for Lenten purposes?



Michelle Arnold answers

The word used for meat is carnis. In modern English, the word meat can refer to any animal flesh. But, in the Latin cited here, it refers to mammals and birds only. So, fish, seafood, amphibians, and insects are permitted (assuming you want to eat some of them); but mammals and fowls are not.


OK I will abstain. I only eat one meal a day or two anyway. Today I had to have sugar because I was shaking so bad.

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