In early 2023, I launched « The Definitive Guide to Fasting and Abstinence » based on over 3 years of research into the forgotten and untold history of how the Catholic Church went from roughly one-third of the year of fasting (and two-thirds as days of abstinence) to only two days of fasting. I published the book so that it would be available in time for Lent, and even though many priests said that 95% of it was new to them, I still had more research to undertake to finish my study of this forgotten history.
After another year of work, I’m delighted to launch the 2nd edition of the book. The 2nd edition features the following topics which were not covered (or covered only briefly) in the first edition:
- Detailed explanations of how fasting changed in other countries besides America, including Spain and the Philippines.
- A detailed explanation of who was exempt from fasting and/or abstinence and how those changes were documented and taught in various catechisms over the centuries
- Easter Week food traditions, highlighting their connection with the Lenten fast
- Armenian fasting and abstinence rigors
- Maronite fasting guidelines
- The heroic example of St. John of the Cross and the Primitive Rule of Pope Innocent IV vs. the mitigated rule approved by Pope Eugenius IV
- How the time of the meal on fasting days differed (e.g., sunset for Ember Days but 3 PM for the weekly devotional fasts)
- The food customs that originate due to Ember Days
- The forgotten fast from fleshmeat and foods cooked in fat on Holy Innocents Day
- Why do the laws of fasting and abstinence bind mortally
- The Bula de Cruzada history
- Semi-Fast vs. Full-Fast Days
- The time of the conventual Mass and how the traditional midnight fast would (or would not) impact that.
- Testimonials from those who followed the traditional fasting proposed in the first edition of the book
- Drinks other than water and if they were allowed in connection with the Eucharistic Fast
- The distinction between black fasting, the Passion Fast, and Xerophagiae
- The Importance of Thanksgiving after Holy Communion
- St. Michael’s Lent
- The Assumption Fast
- The distinction of simple vs. complex liquids: What does it mean that liquids are allowed? What is a liquid, and what is not?
- Chocolate: Is it a liquid or a solid? When and how may it historically be consumed, if at all, on days of fasting
- Why and when beaver, muskrat, and capybara became permitted on days of abstinence for some
- Protestant Fasting: Does it exist? If so, how is it? What is the so-called « Daniel » Fast practiced by some?
- Lard, Bouillon, and Broth explained over time
- The size of the one meal explained, including how long is too long
- And much more!
All in all, the second edition is more than double the length of the first edition! Even if you purchased the first edition of the book, the 2nd edition should be in every Catholic home that is striving to restore the fasting and abstinence practices of our ancestors for the conversion of sinners, reparation of sin, and the increase of virtue in our own lives.
“This work is highly important for faithful Catholics! Matthew has written a book that contains the potential for notable impact on our Prayer Life, Personal Sanctity, and increased historical understanding of the teachings of Holy Mother Church. Since Vatican II the understanding of Fasting, Holy Days of Obligation, and the need to gain self-control have been lessened by transfers of Solemnities and the emotional dispensations from fasting given by ecclesiastical authorities. Armed with this renewed knowledge of age-old practices used by serious Catholics in offering personal acts of sacrifice through abstinence and fasting, a barrier of a hum-drum prayer life can be broken, and Catholics can achieve new levels of Active Participation in the life of the Church.” (Father Scott DuVall)
“To paraphrase St. John Henry Newman, prayer and fasting are the two wings that carry us to Heaven. We cannot achieve eternal life unless both wings are functioning. The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence is not only a history of the practice of fasting, but also more importantly a guide to show Catholics how to love fasting in an age where satisfaction for sin is most needed!” (Father John Lovell, Co-Founder of the Coalition for Canceled Priests)
“The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence fills a great lacuna in the life of the Church. Matthew’s articulate and cogent account of an integral Catholic way of life is one which gives rightful place to the body and its healthy, holistic, and holy subordination to the soul and spirit. Matthew’s book is not only a call to arms, but a call to the recovery of the vital narrative memories of the saints of yesterday, who in their fundamental anthropology, struggles, and strivings are no different from us, the saints of today. With sobriety, intelligence, and authentic piety, The Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence serves as a point of reference, understanding, and motivation so that the strength and the joy of our forefathers may be ours in the here and now.” (Father Cassian DiRocco)
“Many ask what do I do to stem the tide of evil and promote the salvation of souls? This book gives us one of the most important tools. By giving a thorough history and explanation of the laws and practices of fasting and abstinence, the reader cannot help but be motivated to more than the current minimal requirements. The famous quote by Archbishop Fulton Sheen came to mind as I realized the potential for others to be moved by this book: ‘Who will save the Church? …the laity.’ I believe a return to the Church’s rich traditions could be a big part of the work of the laity to save the Church. This book will also inspire priests, as most of us were never instructed in this tradition but will be inspired as well to do more fasting and lead the souls in their care to use the power of fasting and abstinence.” (Father Joseph Nicolosi).