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When did Roman Catholics Stop Fasting on Wednesdays/Fridays?

Alveus Lacuna

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As I understand it, the Catholic practice used to be identical to the Orthodox practices regarding Wednesday and Friday fasting, as well as during Lent, etc. When did a divergence happen? What were the circumstances?

I was reading the Didache again and was reminded how ancient this practice is, and that it most likely comes from the apostles themselves. And I know that some Catholics still keep some kind of Friday fast, if even just eating fish or whatever, but I was wondering how things got to be the way that they are today.
 

augustin717

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In the nineteenth century afaik the fasting discipline was relaxed in many places of the Catholic world. But I don't think it's accurate to say that the latin and Greek practices were identical before.
 

xOrthodox4Christx

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augustin717 said:
In the nineteenth century afaik the fasting discipline was relaxed in many places of the Catholic world. But I don't think it's accurate to say that the latin and Greek practices were identical before.
From what I understand, they still fasted Weds. and Fri. but they, like Greeks, had different prescriptions on what was to be consumed. Greeks only say one kind of oil as opposed to the other Orthodox Churches which consider various types of oils as needed to be abstained from.
 

Alveus Lacuna

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Well even fasting differs between Orthodox churches, like most Russians eat fried fish as a fasting food on Wednesdays and Fridays. I know there is variation, but I am just curious how the Catholic church went from a Wednesday/Friday fast to basically nothing?
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
As I understand it, the Catholic practice used to be identical to the Orthodox practices regarding Wednesday and Friday fasting, as well as during Lent, etc. When did a divergence happen? What were the circumstances?

I was reading the Didache again and was reminded how ancient this practice is, and that it most likely comes from the apostles themselves. And I know that some Catholics still keep some kind of Friday fast, if even just eating fish or whatever, but I was wondering how things got to be the way that they are today.
We must find a Maronite to ask because AFAIK the Maronite Church still observes all the old rules of the Roman Catholic fasting discipline.

My RC friends now fast two days a year: Ash Wednesday and Holy Friday. On these two days they have one full meal and two small meals with no meat (fish and other seafood allowed though) and abstain from solid food between one meal and another.

On Fridays throughout the Lenten period (Quaresima) they only abstain from meat (fish and other seafood allowed though).
 

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Theophilos78 said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
As I understand it, the Catholic practice used to be identical to the Orthodox practices regarding Wednesday and Friday fasting, as well as during Lent, etc. When did a divergence happen? What were the circumstances?

I was reading the Didache again and was reminded how ancient this practice is, and that it most likely comes from the apostles themselves. And I know that some Catholics still keep some kind of Friday fast, if even just eating fish or whatever, but I was wondering how things got to be the way that they are today.
We must find a Maronite to ask because AFAIK the Maronite Church still observes all the old rules of the Roman Catholic fasting discipline.

My RC friends now fast two days a year: Ash Wednesday and Holy Friday. On these two days they have one full meal and two small meals with no meat (fish and other seafood allowed though) and abstain from solid food between one meal and another.

On Fridays throughout the Lenten period (Quaresima) they only abstain from meat (fish and other seafood allowed though).
As a former RC as far back as the 1940's Friday was a day of abstinence ie no meat.  Days of fast and abstinence was always Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.....Its the Communion Fasting that has changed dramatically over recent years.
 

Mor Ephrem

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Alveus Lacuna said:
Well even fasting differs between Orthodox churches, like most Russians eat fried fish as a fasting food on Wednesdays and Fridays. I know there is variation, but I am just curious how the Catholic church went from a Wednesday/Friday fast to basically nothing?
If you read a summary of the RC fasting rules just before the Second Vatican Council, the discipline is more pronounced, even if it is not as extensive as some of the Eastern disciplines.  The further you go back, the less "moderate" they become. 

I'm not sure when Wednesdays dropped out of the weekly fasting (traditionally there is still fasting on the Ember Wednesdays, which are penitential in nature and of ancient origin). 

My guess: IIRC, for the RC's the rules for fasting and abstinence bound (bind?) under pain of sin.  So, for example, if you ate a hamburger on Friday, it was a mortal sin, which had to be confessed before you could commune.  If the fasting is done to avoid "going to hell", it loses something of its ascetic value and intent and becomes a legal hoop through which to jump in order to satisfy a requirement.  But instead of keeping the fasting days and simply declaring that violations were at most venial sins, or didn't "excommunicate", or requiring that people who want/need dispensations should get them from their pastors, they simply removed the requirement to fast so that people would not be guilty of the sin.  Something similar happened with Mass attendance on "days of obligation", if the RC's who explained it to me are to be believed: rather than remove the penalty of sin for missing Mass, they transferred the feasts to Sunday or removed the obligation to attend so that the people would not be guilty of mortal sin. 

It's a backwards way of doing things IMO (assuming I'm right), but in a way it shows just how deeply "legalism" affects their tradition.       
 
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As a former RC as far back as the 1940's Friday was a day of abstinence ie no meat.  Days of fast and abstinence was always Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.....Its the Communion Fasting that has changed dramatically over recent years.
Former RC here.  I remember reading a bull from Pope Julian or one of the Popes during the 1500s where he talks about fasting before communion starting at midnight the night prior to Mass the next day.  This is no longer a tradition of the RC  since now they're only required to "fast" one hour before communion.  I read a wonderful version of the Didache ( http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/590692.Early_Christian_Writings ) also and see a RC Church that does not really reflect that Early Church.  One of the many reasons why I left.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
JoeS2 said:
It's the Communion Fasting that has changed dramatically over recent years.
When did that happen?
The RC eucharistic fast was from midnight, until Pope Pius XII changed it to 3 hours in the 1950's.  This was done around the time that permission was given for celebrating Mass in the evening, which would have made fasting from midnight very difficult.  Then in 1964 Pope Paul VI changed it to 1 hour.  There are exceptions for the elderly (60 and older), the infirm (and their caretakers), and priests celebrating more than one Mass on the same day.
 

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James2 said:
Alveus Lacuna said:
JoeS2 said:
It's the Communion Fasting that has changed dramatically over recent years.
When did that happen?
The RC eucharistic fast was from midnight, until Pope Pius XII changed it to 3 hours in the 1950's.  This was done around the time that permission was given for celebrating Mass in the evening, which would have made fasting from midnight very difficult.  Then in 1964 Pope Paul VI changed it to 1 hour.  There are exceptions for the elderly (60 and older), the infirm (and their caretakers), and priests celebrating more than one Mass on the same day.
Yes, but not everyone followed the new rules. I know for a fact my grandparents still fast from at least 6 hours beforehand, if a noon Mass, and 3 hours if in the afternoon.
 

JamesR

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Are you sure it's out of disuse in the West? I know a few Roman Catholics who fast on Wednesdays. Admittedly, it's a bit more lenient than Orthodox fasting--the RCs I know only fast from meat--but they're still fasting nonetheless. And no, these aren't old pre-Vatican II Catholics but modern, post-Vatican II Catholic teenagers.
 

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I'm not completely sure but I believe the Wednesday fast or "Black Fast" was observed until around 1000 to 1100. As stated by others, requirements were lessened considerably more in the 1950's and 1960's.
 

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xOrthodox4Christx said:
augustin717 said:
In the nineteenth century afaik the fasting discipline was relaxed in many places of the Catholic world. But I don't think it's accurate to say that the latin and Greek practices were identical before.
From what I understand, they still fasted Weds. and Fri. but they, like Greeks, had different prescriptions on what was to be consumed. Greeks only say one kind of oil as opposed to the other Orthodox Churches which consider various types of oils as needed to be abstained from.
Don't rely too much on the Internet. There was a time in Greekdom when olive oil was the ONLY oil available to fast from. As to today's practice, all I can say is I was raised Greek Orthodox and we fasted from all oils (including oleo-margarine) and still do as a family.
 

Dominika

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I've heard and read that in Poland fasting on Wednesdays by RC existed until XVIII/XIX century depending on the region. Actually, some of Polish RC (if I'm not mistaken, also some people from my mother's family) used to fast on Wednesdays even in the beginning of the XX century. And some of traditional RC (those that consider Tridentine Mass to be the Mass of all Times ::)) still fasting on Wednesdays.

As for Fridays, here almost every RC who are more or less aware of their faith, do fast. That's a requirement of the RC episcopacy of Poland. So it's ridiculous, as for them there is almost no difference between annual period and Great Lent ("almost", because they aren't allow to participate in parties). I know that some RC episcopacies of other Western countries don't require fasting even on Fridays
 

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I recall reading that the idea of minimal guidelines on fasting is not to burden concsiences while still encouraging people to fast more than than the bare minimum. Does it happen in practice? Does the RC clergy actively encourage people to more than bare minimum?
 

Alpo

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Mor Ephrem said:
Setting the bar low as a way to encourage setting the bar high just doesn't work for human beings.  
I agree. That doesn't really descripe the logic of theirs that I presented but I agree altogether.
 

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Alpo said:
I recall reading that the idea of minimal guidelines on fasting is not to burden concsiences while still encouraging people to fast more than than the bare minimum. Does it happen in practice? Does the RC clergy actively encourage people to more than bare minimum?
I haven't met any RC priest presenting such attitude. They do just the minimum regarding this issue - they just tell the present rules and probably even the most is not aware of the old rules of fasting (Great Lent, Advent, Wednesdays - probably they know only the old customs of fasting before Communion as they're the last that were "deleted" from the rubrics)
 

Mor Ephrem

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Alpo said:
That doesn't really descripe the logic of theirs that I presented but I agree altogether.
I disagree that minimum guidelines are to ease consciences while at the same time encouraging more than the minimum.  Internet apologists might say that to save face, but how widespread is this?  How official is it?  

Certainly, I've never heard a Roman Catholic clergyman, sister, or religious instructor in real life encourage fasting more than the bare minimum (but I'm judging by fairly regular Mass attendance in a conservative archdiocese between 1991-2002, and attempts to remain aware of trends there since).  If fasting is even heard of at all, it is at the beginning of Lent to remind parishioners about Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Friday abstinence from meat.  Meanwhile, the fasting is basically one and a half full meals, unlimited liquids, but no meat or poultry, while the abstinence is just the latter, with no restriction on food intake.  And, in said archdiocese, dispensations from abstinence for St Patrick's day, St Joseph's day, or Annunciation if they fall on a Friday.  

Of course, you can follow older, traditional disciplines, but they are not binding under canon law (and you'd have to do a bit of searching in order to find them, most priests wouldn't know much about it).  You can follow the dictates of certain visionaries who claim that our Lady told them to fast once a week on bread and water, but you don't even have to believe in such visions, let alone follow their advice.  No one stops you from doing more, no one stops a priest from preaching more, but where is it?  I read the blog of a RC priest in the Midwestern US, and he has posted regularly about meals on Great Thursday including some sort of roasted meat, wine, etc.  You couldn't blame him for ignorance: he's a priest who serves both forms of the Roman rite.  

I can't help but feel that they set the bar low, and people just stopped caring.  Then, to save face, they argue that this was done to ease consciences, and people are encouraged to do more.  But you're not going to do more if you can get away with less unless it's purely out of love for God.  And while that's a great motivation, not all human beings are there yet.  So maybe they would've been better off keeping the bar fairly high and allowing exemptions as may be required.  At least it's something, and you can build on something.  You can't build on nothing.    
 

Alpo

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Mor Ephrem said:
Alpo said:
That doesn't really descripe the logic of theirs that I presented but I agree altogether.
I disagree that minimum guidelines are to ease consciences while at the same time encouraging more than the minimum.  Internet apologists might say that to save face, but how widespread is this?  How official is it?  
No idea. Most of what I know/assume about Catholicism comes from internet apologists.

Mor Ephrem said:
I can't help but feel that they set the bar low, and people just stopped caring.
+1

Of course this applies also to some of the modern Orthodox practices.
 

Mor Ephrem

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Alpo said:
Mor Ephrem said:
I can't help but feel that they set the bar low, and people just stopped caring.
+1

Of course this applies also to some of the modern Orthodox practices.
Most definitely.  In my entire family, I'm the only one who makes even an attempt at keeping the fasts, and it's regarded as "cute" but unnecessary because "God doesn't want you to starve yourself".  Many of our people have all sorts of bizarre ideas about our faith based on modern Orthodox practice or lack thereof.  Our only saving grace is that we've still refused to abandon the rule.  We may break it, but we don't change it.  It's always there for us.   
 

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Very few Catholics I know, maintain a Friday fast except during lent.
 

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My memories of being a RC are fading, but, from what I remember, there is still Canon Law to fast on Friday's year round.

However, outside of Great Lent, this may be substituted with an act of penance instead of fasting.

Well, fasting as defined as abstaining from meat
 

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From what you guys are saying the old rule is still there about fasting on Fridays in the RC Church, but it is simply much less common for it to be followed nowadays.

I have two elderly RC friends who until one of them went to the nursing home fasted from meat on Fridays.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
JoeS2 said:
It's the Communion Fasting that has changed dramatically over recent years.
When did that happen?
After VatII for the most part.  It was incremental. First you were allowed water after midnight, then you could have a small amount of food in the morning, and finally one could eat literally up to 1 hour before receiving Communion which really constitutes no real fasting at all.
 

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rakovsky said:
From what you guys are saying the old rule is still there about fasting on Fridays in the RC Church, but it is simply much less common for it to be followed nowadays.

I have two elderly RC friends who until one of them went to the nursing home fasted from meat on Fridays.
Terms: You fast from food or drink, you abstain from certain foods eg meats etc.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
So nobody knows when Wednesday fasting fell into disuse in the West?
As a former RC, I never heard of Wednesday fasting outside of Ash Wednesday, and we are talking 1940'ish.
 

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Mor Ephrem said:
username! said:
Catholic lenten fish fries are awesome
I never get to partake of them.  :(

Stupid new calendar...
Come to the South.  We have fish fries not restricted to Lent or Catholicism.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
As I understand it, the Catholic practice used to be identical to the Orthodox practices regarding Wednesday and Friday fasting, as well as during Lent, etc. When did a divergence happen? What were the circumstances?

I was reading the Didache again and was reminded how ancient this practice is, and that it most likely comes from the apostles themselves. And I know that some Catholics still keep some kind of Friday fast, if even just eating fish or whatever, but I was wondering how things got to be the way that they are today.
The Roman Catholic Church still highly recommends fasting on these days as I have read in the past while reading Post V-II documents, however it is not strictly encouraged as it was in the past, even the early Post V-II days. As a 17 year old convert to Roman Catholicism  I still try to stick to the ancient fasting practices of the Church of Rome myself.

Pax Vobiscum!
 

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As the Catholic Church believes Friday to be a day of penance, here is what the 1983 code of canon law states on the matter.

"All Christ’s faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe." (CIC 1249)

Also..

"All are obliged to repent, and so that there may be corporate repentance toward God, days of penance have been set up, as in the Old Testament when the Jews proclaimed a national fast to do repent of their sins against God. Today, Friday is the chief day of penance since Christ died because of our sins on Friday, and Sunday is the chief day of worship, since Christ rose for our salvation on Sunday." (CIC 1250)
 

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Sorry to write a book here my fellow Christians, but here is one last quote on Fasting outside of Lent on Fridays for those who were curious. This is also from the 1983 Canon Law, hence Post V-II teachings on fasting of course!

"The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. . . . Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the episcopal conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are o be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. . . . The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their 14th year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority [i.e., 18 years; canon 97:1], until the beginning of their 60th year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence are taught the true meaning of penance. . . . The episcopal conference can determine more precisely the ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety." (CIC 1251-1253)
 

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rakovsky said:
From what you guys are saying the old rule is still there about fasting on Fridays in the RC Church, but it is simply much less common for it to be followed nowadays.
In Louisiana, even into the 90s public school cafeteria lunches were fish on Fridays due to the overwhelming Catholic population in the southern end of the state, so at least school children kept the fast — if unintentionally — for years.
 

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The changes were pretty much made with Vatican II in regard to the Friday requirements. Not sure about the Wednesday requirements not applying.Requirements can vary from country to country. In America it is just the the  Basically it now requires fast and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  On the fasting days 2 small meals may be eaten which should total no more than 1 full meal together and then also one full meal without meat. Fish may be consumed. All  Fridays during Lent are considered days of abstinence without meat.  Through the rest of the year, you may "elect" to do the traditional abstinence from meat or Fridays or instead to do acts of good will or penace. Of course, what this did was basically eliminate either requirements in most peoples minds. Most Catholics believe they are exempt on Fridays, but they are actually not.  It has just become the mindset. Of course, also what use to be a fast from after midnight until receiving communion on each Sunday morning Mass has been reduced to an hour beforehand, which almost means you could eat before you leave for church.  What is regarded as a discipline has been unfortunately reduced to almost nothing.  I continue to try and fast on all Wednesdays and Fridays.  I do consume fish.
 
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