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The fifth precept of the Catholic Church is: “You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“Although we often think of fasting and abstinence as the same, they are quite different. The fifth precept, ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts: they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” #2043

Fasting concerns the quantity of food eaten on particular days, for example, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As Catholic Customs and Traditions states,

“Fasting has always been a popular religious practice. Denying oneself a basic human need such as food for a period of time may be done for different reasons. It prepares for a feast. It promotes self-discipline. It supports one’s prayers. It cleanses oneself of previous abuses and sin. All of these have been motives for the Lenten tradition of fasting. Another motive has always been part of Lenten fasting and abstinence: almsgiving, giving to the needy from what is saved through the discipline of fasting and abstinence, or from one’s surplus.”\

Abstinence refers to the kind of food denied oneself, such as meat.

There are many other forms of penance as well that has become popular in families. Many give up desserts, candies, gum, soft drinks, alcohol and other types of junk food. As well as the money given to the needy, this practice promotes personal discipline and self-control. Limiting TV and videos are also a good form of penance. Weddings were not held during the Lenten period, because of the penitential atmosphere.

From the early days of Christianity, fasting was associated with

  • Jesus’ forty day fast in the desert (Matt. 4:2)
  • Moses’ forty days on Mount Sinai ( Exodus 34:28)
  • Elijah’s forty day fast on his journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8)
  • Forty years the Israelites spent in the desert. Even today, the official title for Lent, Quadragesima, in the church, is Latin for “forty.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says;

“…Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during the forty years in the desert, Christ reveals Himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: he “binds the strong man” to take back his plunder. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of His filial love for the Father.

Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to Him and the way men wish to attribute to Him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” CCC #539-540.

Pretzels were traditionally only eaten during Lent. They appeared on Ash Wednesday, and disappeared on Good Friday. They are made in the form of two arms crossed in prayer. Because the early Christians did not eat dairy products in Lent, the pretzel was made only of flour, salt and water.


  • 1 tbsp honey or sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 envelope dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups flour
  • Coarse or kosher salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

Add the honey to water, sprinkle in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add 1 tsp salt. Blend in the flour and knead the dough until smooth. Cut the dough into pieces. Roll them into ropes and twist into pretzel shapes. You can make small pretzels with thin ropes or large ones with fat ropes but remember to bake them, they should all be the same size.

Place the pretzels on lightly greased cookie sheets. Brush them with beaten egg.. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake at 425oF for 12 to 15 minutes, until the pretzels are golden brown.