JOIN THE 1917 FAST

Some of you may remember Fish Fridays, the midnight Eucharistic fast, retail stores  closed on Sunday, breakfast being a time when you would “break your fast” so on and so forth.

It’s easy (maybe tempting!) to believe modern times are more enlightened than those of yesteryear.  There is a sense, even from some fellow Catholics, that previous Church laws and guidelines were outdated, draconian, atomistic, in its engagement of the human person. But for me, I find plenty of wisdom in previous Church laws, sometimes as much as I do as from the ones we abide by today.

While there is a lot goodness found in those laws, this site is not designed for sentimentality.  Rather, the goal of this site is to renew a fervor within Catholics for more disciplined fasting – to go beyond today’s minimum penitential guidelines and what is prescribed – and to re-engage with the fasting laws many of our grandparents and parents grew up with.

JOIN THE FAST: SIGN UP HERE

For the better part of the 20th century (over 65 years), the Church obligated followers (in good health, not pregnant, between the ages of 21-60) to fast every day, except Sundays during Lent. 

Additionally, every Friday and Saturday during Lent, Roman Catholics had to both fast and abstain from meat. Other Churches still issue similar rules, such as the Eastern Orthodox Church, and go even further in their fasting requirements; and for 65 years, the Catholic Church did too.

Lent is a time to imitate our Lord and invite the Holy Spirit even more deeply into our lives.  We are called to approximate, in some way, our Lord’s 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert.  When our Lord prepares Himself in this way, He leads by example, minimizes distractions, tempers human desires, makes room interiorly for the Spirit and the seven heavenly virtues to live within Him.

After 40 days, the Lord is able to clearly and immediately execute several of the seven heavenly virtues when tempted by the evil one with several of the seven deadly sins thrown His way and begin His public ministry.

The solitude in prayer and the length of fasting in the desert obviously girds our Lord and shields Him from attacks.  Fasting, among other things, builds humility and penitence, and acts as armor against the snares of the devil.  Essentially, fasting builds virtuous and spiritual reflexes in us.

More than ever, we are tempted – in both the physical and digital worlds.  We need strong spiritual armor and fast spiritual reflexes.  Take time this Lent to join me and other Catholics in building a renewal of the old fasting laws! Let us renew the old Canon 1252! In with the old, supplement the new!

Details on the 1917 Code of Canon Law

The 1917 Code of Canon Law, also referred to as the Pio-Benedictine Code, was the first official comprehensive codification of Latin canon law.  It replaced all previous canons.

  • Promulgated by Pope Benedict XV on 27 May 1917.
  • Duration of 1917 Code in legal effect: 5/19/1918 (Pentecost) – 11/27/1983 (65 years, 6 months)
  • This Code, written only in Latin and purposefully NOT translated into English (to avoid translation errors), codified the fasting requirements for Roman Catholics worldwide.
  • The 1917 Code outlined five Canons (1250-1254) under the section “Fast and Abstinence.” (Title XIV).
  • Preceding the 1917 Code: The Quinque Libri Decretalium (1234) of Pope Gregory IX
  • Succeeding the 1917 Code: The Johanno-Pauline Code (1983) of Pope John Paul II

Previous Canon 1252 is highlighted below (emphasis added):

  1. Abstinence only is enjoined on the Fridays throughout the year. Fast and abstinence are prescribed on the following days: Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays in Lent, Ember days, the Vigils of Pentecost, of the Assumption, of All Saints Day, and of Christmas Day. Fast only is ordained for all the other days of Lent. On Sundays and holidays jf obligation, except on a holiday in Lent, there is neither fast nor abstinence, and if a vigil that is a fast day falls on a Sunday the fast is not to be anticipated on Saturday but is dropped altogether that year. The Lenten fast and abstinence cease at twelve o clock noon on Holy Saturday. (Canon 1252.)

 

Majority of Title XIV (Fast and Abstinence) in the 1917 Code is below for those interested:

  1. The law of abstinence forbids the eating of flesh meat and of broth made of meat, but does not exclude the use of eggs, milk and the products of milk (namely cheese and butter), and any seasonings of food, even those made from the fat of animals. (Canon 1250.)
  2. The law of fasting ordains that only one full meal a day be taken, but does not forbid a small amount of food in the morning and in the evening. As regards the kind of food, and the amount, that may be taken, the approved customs of one’s locality are to be observed. One may partake of both fish and flesh meat at the same meal. The full meal may be taken in the evening and the collation at noon. (Canon 1251.)
  3. Abstinence only is enjoined on the Fridays throughout the year. Fast and abstinence are prescribed on the following days: Ash Wednesday, the Fridays and Saturdays in Lent, Ember days, the Vigils of Pentecost, of the Assumption, of All Saints Day, and of Christmas Day. Fast only is ordained for all the other days of Lent. On Sundays and holidays jf obligation, except on a holiday in Lent, there is neither fast nor abstinence, and if a vigil that is a fast day falls on a Sunday the fast is not to be anticipated on Saturday but is dropped altogether that year. The Lenten fast and abstinence cease at twelve o clock noon on Holy Saturday. (Canon 1252.)
  4. The foregoing Canons make no change in particular indults; they do not affect the obligations imposed by vow, either of individual persons or communities, nor alter the constitutions and rules of religious organizations and approved institutes of men or women living in community, even those without vows. (Canon 1253.)
  5. The law of abstinence binds all who have completed their seventh year of age.
    The law of fasting binds all who have completed their twenty-first year until the beginning of their sixtieth year. (Canon 1254.)