During Lent, Catholics in the United States abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and on all the Fridays of the season. They fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Church encourages us to continue the fast on Holy Saturday as well, in union with those preparing for Baptism. On a fast day, people eat only one full meal; they may also eat two partial meals and should not snack between any of them.
The laws of fast and abstinence may vary from one country to another; however, they accomplish the same goals. They help us imitate the example of Jesus, who fasted 40 days to prepare for his ministry.
They help us display our common repentance. More than declaring our personal desire for conversion of heart, they strengthen our community by expressing our corporate sorrow for social sin. They teach us a detachment from passions and turn our hearts toward God and less toward food. They make us more disciplined and charitable.
Fasting becomes spiritually effective when sustained by other practices such as prayer, charity, and almsgiving. The prayers at Mass during Lent presume that the community is supporting its prayer with fasting and its fasting with prayer.
The law of abstinence binds everyone age 14 and older. We are to educate younger children in its significance. The Church expects Catholics to avoid meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent no matter how old we become.
Fasting binds us from our 18th birthday until after the 59th birthday. Catholics younger and older than that need not fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Nonetheless, fasting is a praiseworthy penitential practice, even when not required.
Throughout the year, Catholics fast from food and drink one hour before sharing communion.