26 February 2023

The Lenten Fast

I blogged the rules for the Lenten Fast a couple of weeks ago. Fasting used to be a larger part of Catholic life than it is today. The understanding of fasting as penitential was somehow transformed into its being something onerous after the Second World War, and both fasting and abstinence have been transformed into something (it seems to me) largely symbolic.

The Law of Fasting was applied to the Universal Church from at least the end of the sixth century until 1966, although various dispensations had reduced its breadth considerably. In the mid 1880s, the Bishops of England and Wales issued an instruction regarding the rules: it stated the Law of Fasting, and explained the relaxations then in place. I have added below two of the requests made to Rome to allow the English Bishops to make dispensations to show what considerations were in play.

This is pretty long but, I think worthwhile.

The following Instruction has been issued by the Bishops.


The following instruction of the Cardinal Archbishop and the Bishops of England has been addressed to the Clergy; and is to be kept in the Archives of each mission.

I. THE LAW OF FASTING, when there is no relaxation, is as follows: -

1. All persons who are seven years of age are commanded to abstain from meat on all fasting days; and from meat, eggs, milk, butter, and cheese, on all the days of Lent, Sundays included.

2. Those who are twenty-one, and have not yet reached their sixtieth year, and are not occupied in laborious work, besides abstaining as above, are commanded also to restrict themselves on fasting-days to one full meal a day, to be taken at any hour after midday. Besides the one full meal, however, a collation of not more than about eight ounces weight of food (S. Alph., Lib. 4, Tract 6, n. 1026) is permitted, which should also be taken any hour after mid-day. Meat or eggs may never be taken at collation; and of fish not more than two or three ounces (S. Alph., ibid., n. 1028). Milk, butter, and cheese are also excluded, when not specially allowed by Indult.


1. A refection, of not more than two ounces in weight, is allowed by custom, in the morning, to those who fast.

2. The use of milk and butter is allowed in England, by custom, on all days in the year, at all times when a full meal is permitted by the general law.


1. By the authority of the Holy See, the Bishops of England are accustomed to renew every year the following permissions, granted to the faithful generally for the time of Lent.

i. They allow, at any time when a full meal is permitted by the general law :—

Meat on all days except Wednesdays and Fridays, Ember Saturdays, and the last four days of Holy Week. But when meat is taken, on any day in Lent, or any fasting-day throughout the year, fish is not permitted at the same meal.

Eggs on all days except Ash Wednesday and the last three days of Holy Week.

Cheese on all days except Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Dripping and lard (not suet) on all days except Good Friday.

ii. They allow at collation, to those who fast :

Milk, butter, and cheese, on all days except Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Dripping and lard (not suet) on all days except Good Friday.

All these kinds of food may be taken in small quantities only, as a part of the collation and by way of condiment. Milk, in the Papal Rescript, is classed as food: and, therefore, like the other condiments, it may be taken only in small quantity. (Note: The Papal Rescript permits "in collatiuncula esum butyri, casei, et lactis juxta preces;" and the prayer was "to use at collation, as an addition to the bread, or as condiment, a little butter, or cheese.")

2. Besides the permissions of the Lenten Indults, the use of dripping and lard at dinner and collation—and of milk, butter and cheese at collation—is permitted by the Holy See on all other fasting-days throughout the year. 

Here are two of the requests for dispensation. (I have copied an explanation of the Formulæ at the end.)



1.            In Formula 2 , which is sent to the bishops of England, power is given "to dispense, when they think fit, as to abstinence from meat, eggs, and things of a milky nature, on fasting days and during Lent". Now the Bishops, considering that oil is not a product of England, and hence cannot be used as a condiment, have, by virtue of this faculty, permitted the use of lard and of that melted fat (dripping) which, in England, is used for lard, in its stead. Seeing that its use was allowed in Lent, the faithful have for some years and in good faith been using it on abstinence days out of Lent.

The Fathers, therefore, of the Third Provincial Synod, humbly begged that your Holiness will deign, in your compassion for the wretchedness of the poor, and in consideration of the devotion with which they want to keep the laws of abstinence as well as of their good faith, to sanction the practice already commenced, and confirm the temporary Indult of the bishops who have the Formula, in such a way that for the future use may be made of the said substances, that is, lard and dripping, as well in Lent is on the other fasting and abstinence days of the year.

2.            For the same cause, namely, the want of oil, and because fish is scarce in many places, and other kinds of Lenten diet, such as fruit, salad, &c., cannot be had during the season of Lent, and inasmuch as a variety in the kinds of food allowed in Lent renders the observance of the fast more easy, they likewise beg that your Holiness will be pleased to grant that in the collation which is allowed amongst the strictly conscientious of the faithful, use may be made of milk and butter, the which are already allowed in Scotland and in Belgium, and other northern parts, as well as of cheese which is one of the principal condiments amongst the poor.

Wednesday, May 9, 1860.

Our Most Holy Lord, by divine providence, Pope Pius IX, at the accustomed audience, granted to the Reverend Father, the Assessor of the Holy Office, having heard the above-mentioned petition, together with the opinions of their most Eminent and Reverend Lordships, the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, acting as Inquisitors General throughout the whole Christian republic against the evils of heresy, as regards the first of the requests contained in the above-mentioned petition, graciously yielded thereto as asked for, with the exception of Good Friday, so long as the faculties granted in Formula 2 to the petitioning Bishops are in vigour. Whatsoever things to the contrary, notwithstanding. As to the second request, our Most Holy Father commanded the reply to be given that it is non-expedient.

Angelo Argenti, Notary of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition.



As Lent is drawing near and the Bishop of Clifton is in Rome, he begs respectfully to lay before you in the name of the other Bishops, that in England it is found necessary to dispense many persons from fasting by reason of their inability to provide themselves with the food allowed for the evening collation which is permitted by the Church to those who fast over and above the chief meal. It would not be necessary to dispense such persons from fasting if they could avail themselves of the permission which the Church gives to take a slight meal in the evening. But (1), oil, vinegar, salad, fruit, and such like things which are allowed as condiments, cannot be obtained in England except at a price beyond the means of the common people. (2), From the very fact that these kinds of food and condiment are not within the reach of the people, it follows that they do not make use of them and hence cannot get into the custom of eating them. (3), A great number of these persons live with Protestants either in service or otherwise, and they, although not refusing to give them meagre diet, on the days prescribed, are of course unwilling to procure them victuals and condiments which are not commonly used by the people. Hence confessors have no other resource than to dispense such persons altogether from fasting.

It is now asked if, instead of dispensing them from fasting, it would be lawful for confessors to keep them bound to the fact, but to tolerate the use of a little butter or cheese at the said collation by way of condiment, for these form the ordinary condiment or accompaniment of the people of England and other northern countries. Such permission exists in Scotland, Holland, Belgium and the northern parts of France, countries adjacent to England; and if it existed in England also, the number of those who fast, which is ever on the decrease, would be greatly augmented.

Wednesday, March 18th, 1880.

Our Most Holy Lord, by Divine Providence, Pope Leo XIII, at the usual audience granted to the Reverend Father, the Assessor of the Holy Office, having heard the above petition and the opinions thereupon of the Most Eminent and Reverend the Cardinals Inquisitor-General, graciously granted that the Right Reverend Petitioners might permit the use of butter, cheese, and milk on fasting days at collation in accordance with the petition, provided that in other respects the fast be kept — Ash Wednesday and Good Friday excepted. All things whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding.

J. PELAMI, Notary of the Holy Roman and Universal Inquisition.



The Bishop of Salford humbly begs that your Most Eminent Reverence will deign to declare whether those who are dispensed from the laws of fasting by reason of ill health can eat meat more than once on days when meat is allowed?

The Sacred Penitentiary, having maturely and carefully considered the doubt raised, has decided that the answer should be, that the faithful who are lawfully exempted from the law of fasting, that is, taking only one meal, may eat meat at every meal on those days in Lent when the eating of meat is granted by Indult.

Given at Rome, at the Sacred Penitentiary, March 16th, 1882.


Hip. Canûs. Palombi, S.P., Secretary.

The Formulæ are explained in a dosument from a diocesan Synod.

"It may be useful to mention, that the special powers over cases reserved by the Holy See, which are ordinarily granted to Bishops, are described in various lists, varying in the extent of the faculties given or in the conditions attached to them. These lists are called the Formulæ, and they are ten in number. Usually, the bishops in Ireland receive the Sixth Formula, and the bishops in England the Second; and according to the circumstances of each country, other Formulæ are granted. The expressions employed in them are sometimes transferred to the papal concessions in pari materia, e.g., to a Bull granting a matrimonial dispensation; and hence you may have noticed that moral theologians, in discussing the clauses occurring in dispensations, generally quote the very same expressions as descriptive of such clauses.

In addition to these Formulæ, which are sometimes called in Italian Ordinarie, because they are generally given, or Stampate, because they are in print, the Holy See grants other Extraordinary faculties to Bishops.

Sede Vacante, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda can renew the Formulæ, but (generally speaking), not the Extraordinary Faculties. The Formulæ are usually granted for six years, and thus the Vicars Apostolic of England, named in 1840, applied for a renewal of Formula II during the Conclave of 1846." 

Source: Synods of Southwark, page 82.

25 February 2023

Pre-1910 Calendar for Week Beginning 26 February

 The Indulgence begins.

Proclamation of the Lenten Fast. In Liverpool and Northampton announcement of next Sunday's collection.

+ 26 SUNDAY, first of Lent, semidouble. Violet. Vespers of the the Holy Crown of Thorns, with commemoration of the Sunday. Red.

Salford: Collection for the establishment of the Clergy

27 Monday, The Holy Crown of Thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ, greater double. Commemoration of the Feria, Creed, Preface of the Cross. Red.

28 Tuesday, Feria. Violet.

March has 31 days

1 Ember Wednesday, St David, Confessor Bishop, double. White.

St David’s and Newport, Patron of Wales, double of the first class (without Octave this year)

2 Thursday, St Chad, Confessor Bishop, double. White.

Beverley. Plenary Indulgence

Birmingham. St Chad, Confessor Bishop, Patron of the Cathedral, double of the first class (without Octave this year). White.

3 Ember Friday, The Lance and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ, greater double. Creed. Preface of the Cross. Red. Plenary Indulgence.

4 Ember Saturday, St Casimir, Confessor, semidouble. White.

18 February 2023

Pre-1910 Calendar for the Week Beginning 19 February


The Lenten Fast, the Feast of Devotion of St Matthias, the Plenary Indulgence of the Crown of Thorns, and Easter Duties are to be announced, and in Salford next Sunday's collection

+ 19 QUINQUAGESIMA SUNDAY semidouble. Second prayers A Cunctis. Third prayers free. Violet. Vespers of Quinquagesima Sunday.

Westminster and Southwark collection for the Orphanages.

20 Monday Feria. Mass of Quinquagesima Sunday (omitting Tract and Creed). Second prayers Fidelium. Third prayers A Cunctis. Violet.

21 Tuesday Feria. Mass of Quinquagesima Sunday (omitting Tract and Creed). Violet.

No Nuptial Solemnities may be celebrated until 17 April

22 Ash-Wednesday Feria. Second prayers A Cunctis. Third prayers Omnipotens. Preface of Lent (until Passion Sunday, except when otherwise directed). Violet. FAST.

  The Fast of Lent is to be continued till Easter on all days except Sundays, on which Abstinence is to be observed, unless Dispensation be granted. On fasting days all flesh meat is forbidden, and only one meal and a collation are allowed to those who are bound to fast. On Sundays of Lent unless dispensation be given by the Bishop flesh meat is forbidden.

The following are the usual Dispensations for Lent granted each year by the Bishops of England for their respective Dioceses, by the Authority of the Holy See.

1. Flesh-meat is allowed at the single meal of those who are bound to fast, and at the discretion of those who are not so bound, on all days except Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Ember-Saturday, and the four last days in Holy-Week. On Sundays, even those who are bound to fast may eat flesh-meat at their discretion.

2. Eggs are allowed at the single meal of those who are bound to fast, and at the discretion of those who are not so bound, on all days except Ash-Wednesday and the three last days of Holy-Week.

3. Cheese, under the same restrictions, is allowed on all days, except Ash-Wednesday and Good-Friday.

4. The use of dripping and lard is permitted at dinner and collation on all days, except Good-Friday.

On those days, Sundays included, whereon flesh-meat is allowed, fish is not permitted at the same meal.

‡ The time for complying with the obligation of Paschal Communion commences on Ash-Wednesday, and continues till Low Sunday inclusively.

23 Thursday Vigil St Peter Damian, Bishop Confessor Doctor, double. Second prayers of the Feria and Last Gospel of the Vigil, Creed. White.

24 Friday (Feast of Devotion) St MATHAIAS, Apostle, double of the second class. Creed, Preface of the Apostles. Red. Plenary Indulgence for the feast of the Crown of Thorns of Our Lord. Abstinence.

25 Saturday St Peter’s Chair at Antioch, greater double (transferred from 22 February). Second prayers of St Paul, Apostle, Creed, Preface of the Apostles. White.

11 February 2023

Pres-1910 Calendar for Week Beginning 12 February

In Westminster and Southwark next Sunday's collection for the Orphanages is announced. 

12 SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY, semidouble. Second prayers A Cunctis. Third prayers free for the priest to choose. Violet. Vespers of Sexagesima Sunday, commemoration of Sts Vincent and Anastasius.

Westminster Vespers of Sts Vincent and Anastasius with commemoration of Sexagesima Sunday.

13 Monday Sts Vincent and Anastasius, Martyrs, semidouble, (transferred from 22 January). Second prayers A cunctis. Third prayers free. Red.

Westminster St Scholastica, Virgin, double (transferred from 10 February). White.

14 Tuesday St Valentine, Martyr, simple. Second prayers Fidelium, third prayers A cunctis. Red.

Westminster Sts Vincent and Anastasius, Martyrs (transferred from 22 January). Commemoration of St Valentine. Third prayers A cunctis. Red

15 Wednesday SS Faustin and Jovita Martyrs, simple. Second prayers A cunctis, third prayers free. Red.

Westminster Second prayers Fidelium, third prayers A Cunctis.

16 Thursday Of the Blessed Sacrament, semidouble. Second prayers A cunctis, third prayers free. Preface of Christmas. White.

17 Friday The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, greater double. Votive Mass of the Passion, Gloria, proper prayers, Creed, Preface of the Cross. Red. Plenary Indulgence. Abstinence.

18 Saturday Of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, semidouble. Second prayers of St Simeon, Bishop Martyr, third prayers Deus qui corda, Preface of the BVM. White.


04 February 2023

Pre-1910 Calendar for Week Beginning 5 February


5 SUNDAY SEPTUAGESIMA. Second prayers A cunctis, third prayers free. Violet. Vespers of St Titus with commemoration of Septuagesima and St Dorothy Virgin Martyr. White.

6 Monday St Titus, Bishop Confessor, double. Second prayers of St Dorothy, Virgin Martyr. White.

7 Tuesday St Romuald, Abbot Confessor, double. White.

8 Wednesday St John of Matha, Confessor, double. White.

9 Thursday St Agatha, Virgin Martyr, double (transferred from 5 February). Red

Westminster: The XXVI Martyrs of Japan, double. Red

10 Friday The Prayers of Our Lord Jesus Christ, greater double, Creed, Preface of the Cross. Red. Abstinence.

11 Saturday St Scholastica, Virgin, double (transferred from 10 February). White.

Westminster St Agatha, Virgin Martyr, double (transferred from 5 February). Red