What age did children need to fast/abstain prior to Vatican II?

I know that we have discussed the changes in the Eucharistic fast on other threads. Now my question is in regard to fasting/abstinence during Lent and on Fridays other than during Lent. Currently abstinence applies to those 14+, and fasting applies to those 18-60. At what age was one required to fast and abstain either pre-Vatican II or prior to whenever the new rules were put into place?

in my childhood (50s) everybody abstained because mama was not going to make separate meals for everyone. fasting was age 18-59 inclusive, abstinence began at 14 and was for life. bear in mind fasting was every weekday of Lent, an abstinence was every Friday of the year, and every weekday of Lent. Pregnant and nursing women and those who could not do either practice for reasons of illness were always exempt from fasting, and from abstinence if on doctor’s orders. MIL still does both, the old way, at age 87 and her health is excellent for her age.

Canon 1254 of the 1917 Code bound all those who were 7 and above to abstinence, and those from 21 to 60 to fasting.

(However there were exceptions and indults: like for soldiers- it would be only 6 days in the year)

I was going to say I thought it was 7 for abstinence, but I think puzzleannie had it right for 59 as the cap on fasting because the canons, IIRC, mention midnight beginning one’s sixtieth year - which begins when one turns 59 (kind of like how the twentieth century began in 1901, not 2001).


Well, that makes sense because 7 year olds would be required to do penance after reaching age of reason. What days did the soldiers have to fast and abstain?

At one time (in the USA) it was Ash Wednesday, the Triduum, and the Vigils of Assumption and Christmas. During WW I the vigil of Assumption was removed.

Thanks! I never knew this before. You always give great insights into the traditional Church practices.:slight_smile:

the changes in fast and abstinence, as well as fasting before communion, came in a series of changes, not all at once, so we can’t really say–this was before V2, this was after. In fact a lot of changes in liturgical practice which people “blame” on V2 were actually initiated by the 20th c popes from the beginning of the century in a gradual process, which was interrupted by wars etc.

I was not sure when the changes were made, so I mentioned “pre-Vatican II or whenever the changes were made” in my OP. I am not interested in debating whether or not changes are good or bad. I’m just interested in a little history.

I went to Catholic school from primer in 1956 to my senior year in high school in 1969. There was no question about abstinence, either in school or at home on any Friday or on any other day of fasting and abstinence. I have a younger sister and brother and if my mother served fish sticks - fish sticks it was, no matter what their age.

And all restaurants and movie theaters closed on Good Friday then. In New Orleans. That practice stopped in the early 70s.

I noticed that at least culturally, some things have not changed. For instance, if one goes to a restaurant or tavern on any Friday throughout the year (not just during Lent), the specials are always fish. A bank in my neighbourhood is closing on Good Friday. The bank is owned by a Polish family. The suburb where my mother lives is closing city hall on Good Friday.

Good Friday is a holiday for me (as a state employee) and many of the banks do close. Many businesses close across south Louisiana as well. But when I was a kid back in the 50s, it was nigh unto universal.

I have to be honest. Our priests and bishops recognize that abstinence is not a sacrifice for us. And it’s not. It is prime time for crawfish. Shrimp, oysters, and crabs are abundant. And I don’t even need to mention the varieties of fish available. So we are encouraged to do more than simple abstinence. We are encouraged to spend more time in prayer and to do other acts of self-sacrifice (like turning off the TV).

I never considered abstinence to be a sacrifice either. Fish and seafood are my favourites. I was looking forward to Fridays before I turned 14.

Our kids grow up with abstinence. It is no sacrifice. Many of us observe abstinence on Fridays because it is culturally engrained. In any south Louisiana restaurant on any Friday, you will find seafood specials. Given my druthers, I’ll choose Shrimp Creole on a non-absitence Friday over sirloin any day.

Our version of serious abstinence is a grilled cheese sandwich.

My mother always made me peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Fridays.

For us, it was grilled cheese or fish sticks and tomato soup. To this day, I hate tomato soup.

I don’t find the abstinence at all inconvenient. I love fish, and generally eat it in a restaurant. A couple scrambled eggs are fine for supper. That’s not a problem at all.

I do find it hard to fast though. I don’t bring snacks or money to work with me on Fridays in Lent. I put my candy dish out of sight, but it’s not out of mind. So far, I’ve done fine this year with fasting, but it’s not easy. I took off for Good Friday so I can attend services, and I’m glad because it’s going to be a FOOD DAY here.

On a slightly different note, I found a cassette tape of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while cleaning out my aunt’s house for sale. I’ve been saying that on the way home everyday during Lent. I think I have a nice new habit! I’d like to find one with the rosary on one side and the chaplet on the other. The commute is long enough for both, but I can’t keep track for myself while driving.


I am not sure if you meant your rosary, or your tape, but I will explain for both.

You can use ANY rosary [not a chaplet] to do the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

I don’t know if tapes are available with each on one side, but I know there are CDs available, but again, no idea if its available on just ONE CD or not. If its not, I could make you a Rosary and Divine Mercy CD for you. If you PREFER a tape, I’ll see what I can do to make you one. Keep in touch and God bless.

You may return to your regularly-scheduled thread…

Thanks, that’s very kind. My aunt just had this tape in the desk, and it was convenient. I’ll check out Catholic Supply this weekend – well, maybe next weekend – or Our Lady of the Snows. One of those places will have one. I have a CD player in this car too, so either one works. This is the first car I’ve had with a CD player. It’s pretty hard to find cassettes anymore.

Someone correct me if I am wrong here, but aren’t Fridays in Lent days of Abstinence and Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of Fast and Abstinence. Abstinence means, generally, no meat. Fast means one full meal, two smaller meals and no snacks.

And as always doing more is great but Fridays in Lent are not days of Fast as far as I know.

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