In a letter to the faithful of our diocese, Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., outlines the requirements for Lent:
Here is what the Catholic Church in the United States requires of us as baptized Catholics:
- The days of FAST (only one full meal) and ABSTINENCE (no meat) are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. No dispensations are granted on these solemn days except for reason of sickness or those provided in canon law ... The pastor of a parish has the authority to give a dispensation to individual parishioners in his parish. The Bishop alone has the authority to dispense groups of Catholics but only for a serious reason.
- Those who are automatically dispensed from fast and abstinence regulations outside the age limits noted below include: the physically or mentally ill, especially individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also included in the dispensation are women who are pregnant or nursing. In all cases, common sense should prevail and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops).
Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to FAST (only one full meal) as above. From the age of 14, people are also obliged to ABSTAIN (no meat: this obligation prohibits the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat).
There's a lot more. Read the bishop's letter.