Yesterday my children’s school had a Fat Tuesday celebration. They took an hour out of their workday to have one last festive moment before the sacrifice of the Lenten season finally began. Our parochial school ordered a catered breakfast, and the kids enjoyed digging into stacks of pancakes in the school cafeteria.
Today is a vastly different school day. It’s Ash Wednesday, and the children gathered into the church to reflect on sacrifice and tradition and get ashes from our parish priests. While many adult Catholics will get ashes as a sign of repentance, many will also observe the usual Ash Wednesday fasting rules.
The Catholic Church sets guidelines on age regarding Lenten rules. Technically, Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obligated to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.
While my two younger children do not technically have to abide by the fasting rules due to their age, they usually do. My son is 8, and he is getting excited about understanding the church rules this year. When I was a child, my mother made us observe the fasting rules despite being younger than the regulated age, but honestly it wasn’t that difficult.
According to American Catholic, the rules are as follows:
Fasting as explained by the U.S. bishops means partaking of only one full meal. Some food (not equaling another full meal) is permitted at breakfast and around midday or in the evening—depending on when a person chooses to eat the main or full meal.
Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.
Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.
Our obstaining from meat is a given since my daughters and I are vegetarian. My son eats meat (usually chicken) once or twice a week, so tonight it will be a vegetarian dish for him as well.
Do you make your children follow fasting rules for Ash Wednesday even though they are under 14? Did you observe rules when you were a child? What is your child giving up for lent this season?