I read from a little book called the Manual of Catholic Devotions (by Regina Press, with an imprimatur dated 24 July 1963) that the rules for fasting and abstinence in the United States at that time were:

Abstinence alone is prescribed every Friday, unless a holiday of obligation falls thereon.

Fasting and Abstinence are prescribed in the United States on the Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent and Holy Saturday forenoon (on all other days of Lent fasting alone is prescribed and meat is allowed once a day), the Ember Days, viz., the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the First Sunday of Lent, Pentecost or Whitsunday, the 14th of September, and the Third Sunday of Advent; the Vigils of Pentecost, All Saints, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas.

There is no fast or abstinence if a Vigil falls on a Sunday. Whenever meat is permitted, fish may be taken at the same meal.

The same book defines fasting and abstinence as follows:

Abstinence forbids the use of flesh-meat and of the juice thereof (soup, etc.). Eggs, cheese, butter and seasonings of food are permitted. The Law of Fasting forbids more than one full meal a day, which must not be taken before noon.

Based on the description there doesn't seem to be much difference between the Ember Days in Lent and the other days in Lent: both fasting and abstinence are required on Wednesdays and Fridays of Lent, so the Lenten Ember Wednesday and Friday appear to have the same rules as any other Wednesday or Friday in Lent. Therefore only Ember Saturday appears to have an additional restriction of abstinence compared to other days in Lent.

Is this correct? If so, is the similarity between the Lenten Ember Days and the other days of Lent at this time (early 1960s) due to the relaxation of fasting/abstinence rules over time, or were they always so similar?

1 Answer 1


How did the fasting and abstinence requirements of Lenten Ember Days differ from other days of Lent in the United States?

Ember Days followed the prescribed rules or norms of the Church as what was generally laid down at that time.

This is still the practice of those few Religious Institutions that still practice this seasonal devotion, in our day! Nowadays, the Ember Days of fasting and prayer are almost completely disappeared. In the US, bishop are free to bring back the Ember Days fasting, but none have chosen to do so, in any diocese.

The fasting rules of Ember Days followed the Church rules of fasting that applied at that time when practiced. There were no special Ember Day fasting norms!

Nevertheless, there are still some religious communities that still practice this liturgical devotion in our day and to make at little bit more enjoyable, historical and meaningful have special meals to make the Ember Days stick out: Ember Day Tart. I myself have done this occasionally. Bone Appetite!

  • Hmm, it seems odd to place Ember Days specifically after the first Sunday of Lent and yet not make them any different from the other days of Lent (except that Ember Saturday). I would have thought the Church would set the Ember Days outside of Lent in order to make them "stick out" rather than "hiding" them in Lent, but I suppose one could also argue that the Lenten fasting/abstinence meant that the Ember Days for that season were not really necessary and could be "hidden" within Lent.
    – Null
    Mar 1, 2023 at 14:56
  • @Null Not so odd, when there is the real possibility that the Ember Days probably predated the 40 day Lenten observance as we understand it.
    – Ken Graham
    Mar 1, 2023 at 15:08
  • The Church of England Book of Common Prayer has the forty days of Lent (i.e. Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday excluding the 6 Sundays) as days of fasting (how is not defined). It too says the ember days are days of fasting and they are the same as RC (presumably inherited from before the Reformation. I suppose that in listing the ember days it intends to remind people that special prayers for vocations are to be made then, even though fasting rules are not different. Ember days are more than just fasts; but had to be listed somewhere.
    – davidlol
    Mar 2, 2023 at 17:29

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