Fast and Abstinence
Fasting involves refraining for a time from the satisfaction of human needs, especially the needs for food and drink, as an expression of interior penance. This spiritual practice is a proven means of decreasing our selfishness while increasing our dependence upon God’s fatherly provision.
The only days on which Catholic adults (until the age of 60) are required to fast are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. 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. Snacks and meat are also prohibited on those days.
However, penance is an integral part of the Christian life, and fasting is a traditional, biblically based penitential practice strongly encouraged by the Church (see Catechism, no. 1434). Further, all Catholics fast for at least one hour before receiving Our Lord, the “Bread of Life,” in Holy Communion.
Catholics in the United States are required to abstain from eating meat not only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but also on all other Fridays during Lent. This explains all the Lenten “Soup and Stations Nights,” fish fries, and cheese enchilada sales!
May these and other Lenten observances of our own choosing bring home to us the Gospel truth that we do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4).
Why Catholics make the sign of the cross? The sign of the cross is a very ancient practice and prayer. It was then and is now a sign of discipleship and belief in the Trinity. St. John Chrysostom said, “If we are Christians, we are attached to Jesus Christ and we carry on our foreheads the mark of the one whom we do not blush to carry in our hearts, whose mark is His very humility.”
The sign of the cross has evolved over the years from tracing a small cross on the forehead to the version we use today. St. Francis de Sales, (1567-1622) wrote the following description in his work, “The Sign of the Cross, The Fifteen Most Powerful Words in the English Language.” “The Sign of the Cross is made in the following way. It is made with the right hand, which, as Justin Martyr says, is esteemed the more worth of the two. It is made with with three fingers, in order to signify the Blessed Trinity, or five, in order to signify the Savior’s five wounds; and although it does not much matter whether one makes the Sign of the Cross with more or fewer fingers, still one may wish to conform to the common practice of Catholics in order not to seem to agree with certain heretics, such as Jacobites and the Armenians, who each make it with one finger alone, the former in denial of the Trinity and the latter in denial of the two natures of Christ.
The Christian first lifts his hand toward his head while saying, “In the name of the Father,” in order to show that the Father is the first person of the Blessed Trinity and the principle and origin of the others. Then, he moves his hand downward toward the stomach while saying,
“and of the Son,” in order to show that the Son proceeds from the Father, who sent Him here below into the Virgin’s womb. Finally, he pulls his hand across from the left shoulder to the right while saying, “and of the Holy Spirit,” in order to show that the Holy Spirit, being the third person of the Blessed Trinity, proceeds from the Father and from the Son and is Their bond of love and charity, and that it is by His grace that we enjoy the effects of the Passion. When making the Sign of the Cross, therefore, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion, and the remission of sins, by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing.”
Another form of the sign of the cross is used at Mass just before the Gospel is read. We trace a small cross on our foreheads, lips and heart and pray, “May the words of the Gospel be on my mind, upon my lips and in my heart”.
Making the sign of the cross is more than a gesture; it is a sign, an offering and a ceremony.
It is a sign of the Passion and Death suffered by Jesus Christ for our salvation. It is an offering of our thoughts, works and prayers and it is a ceremony in that it is used to honor and worship the triune God.
As a young person, I remember when Catholics made the sign of the cross as a sign of reverence when they passed a church or religious place and when were beginning a task many took time to remember and give homage to God by making the sign of the cross.
Next time you make the sign of the cross think about the significance of this common gesture and the opportunity to worship it affords.
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
CCC 2157 The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.
CCC 1668 Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man. In accordance with bishops’ pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture, and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time. They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism).
The Bible was compiled in the 3rd Century AD and has two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The 46 Books of the Old Testament consist of the writings of the ancient Israelites and tell the story of salvation history and the coming of the Messiah. Father John A. Hardon defined salvation history in the Workbook for his Basic Catholic Catechism Course: “The history of the salvation of the human race, beginning with God’s promise of a Redeemer (Genesis 3) and continuing to the end of the apostolic age, or the death of the Apostle St. John.”
The New Testament is a collection of the 27 books on the life of Jesus (the Gospels) along with the writings and teachings of the disciples as they carried out their mission to spread the good news. While the authority of these writings were accepted in the first century, they were formally authorized in the 300′s as the inspired writings that were to be included in the Canon of the Bible. Of course, at that time there was only one church, the Catholic Church. So you are correct in surmising that the Catholic church compiled the Bible.
Non-Catholic Christians and others who think that Catholics don’t read the bible are very mistaken. Of course, Catholics read the bible and hopefully, they study and meditate on the bible. Most importantly, Catholics read and listen to bible passages from the Old & New Testament every time we celebrate Mass. Each Sunday, we hear a reading and Psalm from the Old Testament and a reading and Gospel message from the New Testament proclaimed from the ambo as a part of the Mass. All of these readings are related to one another and the celebrant or deacon bases his homily on the theme of those readings.
But it doesn’t stop there!
Not only do Catholics listen to the word of God but Catholics pray the word of God because the entire Mass is based on scripture.
More from the Catechism of the Catholic Church….
CCC 103 For this reason, the Church has always venerated the Scriptures as she venerates the Lord’s Body. She never ceases to present to the faithful the bread of life, taken from the one table of God’s Word and Christ’s Body.
CCC 104 In Sacred Scripture, the Church constantly finds her nourishment and her strength, for she welcomes it not as a human word, “but as what it really is, the word of God.” “In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them.”
CCC 105 God is the author of Sacred Scripture. “The divinely revealed realities, which are contained and presented in the text of Sacred Scripture, have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
“For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and the New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church herself.”
CCC 107 The inspired books teach the truth. “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred
Ever Wonder why Catholics believe certain things and worship the way they do? Where did the Catholic beliefs and practices come from?
The Catholic Church draws not only from what was written down in the Bible but also from Tradition as handed down to us through the apostles and safeguarded to this day by the Church. This teaching authority or teaching office of the Church is called the Magisterium. Most Protestant churches believe in sola scriptura (Latin for scripture alone or scripture only). Catholics believe that our faith draws on three elements, Tradition, Scripture and Magisterium. (You will find these words on the CSS Logo)
If you are a CSS student you know that Catholic Scripture Study International is more than a Bible Study, it is a faithful source for Catholic Catechesis. Each lesson incorporates teachings from the Catechism along with Papal teachings and Saint quotes and students are given the opportunity to discover the basis for the teachings of the Catholic Church.
From my very first CSS class I realized that despite being well catechized, I was learning truths about my faith than I was unaware of. I was excited about what I was learning and I wanted to share it with everyone. I kept thinking that the faithful Catholic who comes to Church every Sunday needs to know these teachings. They need to know and understand the richness and beauty of their Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
After speaking with my pastor, he gave permission for a weekly post in our parish bulletin and so began the series called Ever Wonder. These are just simple little facts about our faith that hopefully, will not only be informative, but also prompt you to dig deeper. We’re going to begin exploring these beliefs and at times expand on them. Look for more in the weeks to come and learn more about your faith.
Sandra Bennett Fountain
CSS Executive Director
If our beliefs come from the Bible and the teachings of the apostles, why does the Church make changes?
To answer that question, we need to know the difference between dogma and canon.
Dogma/Doctrine never changes. When the Church defines dogma it exercises the authority it holds from Christ to proclaim the revealed teachings of Christ. The faithful are obliged to believe these truths or dogmas.
Canon law or the rules of the Church can and do change in order to provide norms for good order in the visible society of the Church.
Want to know more?
More from the Catechism of the Catholic Church–
CCC 88 The Church’s Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these.
Glossary: CANON LAW: The rules (canons or laws) which provide the norms for good order in the visible society of the Church. Those canon laws that apply universally are contained in the Codes of Canon Law. The most recent Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983 for the Latin (Western) Church and in 1991 for the Eastern Church (The Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches).