Fasting and Abstinence at Lent: A CNA Explainer

Most Catholics, even those who don’t often go to Mass, know that Lent is a time for Friday Fish Fries and “giving something up.” But many Catholics wonder what exactly the Church requires during Lent, and why.

Here are a few points that might help you have a great Lent this year:

What is Lent?

At the beginning of his public life, Jesus was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist in the Jordan River. John was a prophet and a preacher, and he urged people to be baptized as a sign of their repentance from sin.

After Jesus was baptized, according to the Gospel of Matthew, the Holy Spirit descended upon him “like a dove,” and a voice from heaven said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

People were amazed, but Jesus immediately went away by himself into the desert. There he fasted and prayed, and while he was there, Satan appeared to him three times, tempting him.

Jesus stayed in the desert for 40 days. When he left the desert, he began calling his disciples and apostles, as the mission that led to his crucifixion had begun.

The Church says that Lent is a 40-day period of unity with “the mystery of Jesus in the desert.”

By sacrificing small things, as well as fasting, praying, and giving to charity, Catholics are invited to experience a period of prayer like the one Jesus experienced, and to prepare themselves to resist Satan’s temptation, and fulfill the mission God has given the Church.

Lent comes before Easter, and is a preparation for that feast, which is one of the most important in the Church’s life.

Cool. So, I can’t eat meat then?


During the Fridays of Lent, Roman Catholics are to abstain from meat, in union with the fasting of Jesus, and in memory of Christ’s death on a Friday. Fish is not considered meat for these purposes, nor are some other kinds of aquatic creatures in certain places- alligator is ok in Louisiana, and, curiously, muskrat is allowed in some parts of Michigan!

Generally speaking, products derived from animals, like broth or gelatin, are not considered to violate the rule of abstinence- this is because the point is to make a spiritual sacrifice in union with Christ, not to become consumed with parsing ingredient lists for animal byproducts.

The point, really, is for the Fridays of Lent to be days of simplicity and even a bit of hunger- while seafood is allowed, a butter-soaked lobster probably misses that point.

All Catholics age 14 and older are expected to abstain from meat, although those who can’t do so for health reasons, along with pregnant and nursing women, are obviously exempted.

I have heard the Fridays of Lent referred to as “days of abstinence.” Usually when the Church talks about abstinence…

This is a surprisingly common question. When the Church talks about abstinence in this context, she is referring to abstention from eating meat.

What about fasting? When do I fast? And what do I do?

The two required days of fasting during Lent are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. These are also days of abstinence. All Roman Catholics who are 18 but not yet 59 are required to both fast and abstain from meat on those days.

In 1966, Pope St. Paul VI said that the Church’s “law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening.” This is often taken to mean that the most Catholics should eat on a day of fasting is one normal sized meal–with no meat–and two smaller snacks.

Those who wish for a more intense fast are not prohibited from more fasting, but this is generally a good idea to discuss with a spiritual director, confessor, or pastor.

Wait– so I’m 60, and my grandson is 17. Does that mean we don’t have to fast?

That’s correct. You are not required by canon law to fast- though you are still bound by the law of abstinence. This means that whether to fast should be a matter for your discernment, perhaps with some guidance from your pastor or confessor.

What about candy? Should I give that up? What’s that about anyway? I don’t even like candy.

I like candy. But here a few thoughts on what to do for a fruitful Lent:

The season of Lent emphasizes three things: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. Prayer means prayer, that’s pretty simple. Almsgiving refers to acts of charity or generosity. And fasting refers to going without something, especially something on which we’ve become dependent, something we think we can’t live without, or something that distracts us from God.

Actually, these three themes are related directly to the three temptations Christ faced in the desert, and you can read about that here.

But for a fruitful Lent, it is helpful to decide on one practice for each of those themes. To find some practice of prayer you can add to your day. To decide on some act of charity or work of mercy you’ll take up. And to decide what you can fast from- it might be food, like candy, or it might be your phone, or music and news on the car radio, or soda.

The key is to choose something that you will sustain the whole of Lent, and something that does not gravely disrupt your family life or the people around you. If you drive miles to work, don’t give up driving. If you take care of young children, don’t commit to all-night prayer vigils, at least not every night.

Ideally, the practices of prayer we commit to will become incorporated into our regular lives, and our sacrifices and almsgiving might become something we continue to do as well.

There is a story about Dorothy Day, who used to give up cigarettes each year, but who would annually become so grumpy that the members of her community would beg her to take them back up again. Think about the people you live with, and work with, as you decide on your Lenten practices– If you work in this office, don’t give up showering, please.

But think also about prayer. Eventually Dorothy Day decided that instead of giving up cigarettes for Lent, she would start praying daily, “Dear God, help me stop smoking.” She prayed it faithfully for years, though she continued to smoke. One day, she realized she didn’t want to smoke. She never picked up a cigarette again.

Prayer should be the central focus of our Lent. Without prayer, Lent will be a kind of endurance test for us. A test of how strong we are, or how much willpower we have. But Lent isn’t really about that. Lent is about how much we can turn to God the Father, through Jesus, and hand over our lives to him. That should be the center of our Lenten discipline.

Maybe on Sundays. Sunday is weekly our celebration of Christ’s resurrection, and some Catholics decide to put aside their Lenten disciplines, in order to celebrate Christ. There are no rules about this; it’s a matter of your individual conscience. If keeping Lenten practices on Sunday helps you to focus on Christ, keep them. If celebrating Sunday with candy helps you to focus on Christ, that’s ok too.

Nanono: Agric Mechanisation Way Forward for Nigeria

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono has emphasised that agricultural mechanisation is the only way forward if the government must develop the sector and create the needed jobs for the teeming youths.

He said as crucial as the agro-processing zones are to development, earlier attempts by previous administrations to ensure agro-processing commenced in the country never came to fruition for over a decade.

Speaking at the opening of the Special Agro- Industrial Processing Zones (SAPZs) inception workshop recently organised by the African Development Bank (AfDB), he noted that issues bordering on land, water resources, relevant manpower and the level of mechanisation must be addresses before successes of the zones could be guaranteed, adding that, “You may have clusters but nothing to process.”

Nanono, also said issues relating to research on good seedlings, and extension workers to monitor progress were crucial to realising the potential of the proposed agro-processing zones.

He stressed that mechanisation remained the cardinal principle to move the country forward in agriculture.
The minister said SAPZs remained a major strategy in the economic diversification programme of the current administration and repositioning for sustainable economic growth and development.

He said that the plan was to develop the SAPZs within a period of three years across the country in areas where core economic value can be unleashed for the benefit of the rural population, adding that agricultural mechanisation would be the main vehicle for strategically implementing the SAPZ programme on an intense scale.

Essentially, he said SAPZs are to be built around brownfields – areas with developed and existing infrastructure such as rails, roads, power and irrigation systems, is being developed with the support and collaboration of the AfDB and financiers like International Finance Corporation (IFC) and African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

The core implementing agencies including the Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Corporation, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), the Bank of Industry, and Bank of Agriculture among others classified into four cluster groups to appraise critical commodities in the value chain and proffer the way forward.

Nanono, said based on discussions with the Bank, the federal government as part of the on-going reforms in the agriculture sector has requested the support of the AfDB in the development of six SAPZs across the country during the next three years.

He said the Initiative focuses on priority commodities including those that top the list of food imports into Nigeria; have the potential to provide quality employment to a large number of people especially youths; reduce urban and rural poverty and lift 100 million people out of poverty; have the most potential for boosting export revenue through agro-processing value addition and will revive past, valuable, agro-industrial assets among others.

AfDB: AU Endorses Adesina for Second Term

The Executive Council of the African Union has supported Dr. Akinwumi Adesina’s candidacy for a second term as President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

A statement disclosed that the decision was taken during the 36th ordinary session of the AU Executive Council, held during the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this month.

Adesina was elected to his first term as President by the Bank’s Board of Governors at its Annual Meetings in Abidjan on 28 May 2015.

He is the eighth President of the African Development Bank Group and the first Nigerian in the post. During his first term, the Bank’s shareholders approved a landmark $115 billion capital increase last October.

The increase in the capital base, from $93 billion to $208 billion, signaled strong support from the Board of Governors in the continent’s foremost financial institution.

Adesina is a renowned development economist who has held a number of high-profile international positions, including with the Rockefeller Foundation, and as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development from 2011 to 2015.

The African Union Executive Council comprises 55 ministers of foreign affairs representing the member states of the African Union.

In December 2019, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also endorsed Adesina for a second term as bank chief. The election would again take place at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in May in Abidjan.

FG Unveils Adamawa, Nasarawa, Plateau for Pilot Scheme to Check Farmers, Herders’ Clashes

As parts of efforts to tackle the problems of farmers, herders’ clashes that have led to the death of hundreds of people and the destruction of property worth millions of naira, the federal government is set to launch a pilot programme of its National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) in three states.

The scheme, according to the National Economic Council (NEC) sub-committee on National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP), will take off in Adamawa, Nasarawa and Plateau States.

The plan, aims at supporting the development of the livestock sector, was initially billed for implementation in seven pilot states of Adamawa, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara.

The states, meant to serve as pilot states, are said to have made land available for the project that will be funded by the federal government as soon as they submit their evaluation plan for the establishment of ranches or livestock centres.

At conception, the NLTP was approved to take off with a budget of N100 billion.
NLTP was conceptualised by NEC as an intervention programme to check frequent clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Answering questions from journalists after a closed-door meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the State House, Abuja, the Governor of Ebonyi State and Chairman of the sub-committee, Chief David Umahi, said the programme would address the farmer-herder conflicts.

He stated that the three states had grazing reserves and consultations had been made with the people of the states and their traditional rulers who had expressed their willingness to embrace the programme.

Umahi said yesterday’s meeting was in furtherance of the committee’s commitment towards the implementation of the NLTP.
“We have pencilled down three states that we have evaluated: Adamawa, Plateau and Nasarawa. So, we are going ahead to ask them to submit their programmes and costing for implementation.

“Three states that have grazing reserves and we have spoken to people in the grazing reserves, the traditional rulers, the district heads and the population within that location and they are willing to go with the programme: the NLTP,” he stated.

Umahi explained that the programme would run along with farming activities within the grazing reserves in affected states, with a line of demarcation drawn between farming and grazing activities.

He added that the principle remained the execution of the programme in accordance with the consent of the people.
The governor added that the programme would help in resolving protracted conflicts between farmers and herders.

According to him, if the idea of grazing reserves is re-introduced, particularly in the North, farmers-herders’ conflicts would subside and the move would conform to the modern way of cattle rearing.

“In this programme, you are going to have some farmers that are within the grazing reserves doing their farming and the herders also doing theirs. Of course, there is going to be a demarcation.

“The emphasis still remains that it is the willing states. Even if you have grazing reserves like some states in the North and the state is not willing to key into it, it is not compulsory.
“The expectation is that we have clear mandates. One is that this programme is going to resolve to a very large extent the farmers-herders conflict.

“So, if we revive some of the grazing reserves, especially in the North, for willing states, we are going to see this conflict come down and then also a modern way of cow rearing for greater benefits. These are things we expect to see,” Umahi added.

The sub-committee is expected to present the report on the latest development to NEC tomorrow at its monthly meeting in Abuja.
Umahi, at an earlier briefing of State House reporters in Abuja last year, had allayed fears that non-Nigerian herdsmen would participate in the programme.

He had explained that movement of cattle would not be allowed without registration and monitoring.
On how the N100 billion budgetary allocation would be sourced, the government had explained that the federal government would provide N80 billion while participating states would contribute the balance of N20 billion.

“The plan has six pillars through which it aims to transform the livestock production system in Nigeria along market oriented value chain while ensuring an atmosphere of peace and justice.

“The six key pillars include: economic development (investment), conflict resolution, justice and peace, humanitarian relief and early recovery (that is to IDPs), human capital development and cross-cutting issues such as gender, youth, research and information and strategic communication,” he had stated.

Osinbajo, in September 2019, had inaugurated the National Livestock Transformation Plan at the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve in Mayo-Belwa Local Government Area of Adamawa.
The vice president had said during the inauguration that the plan was designed to run from 2019-2028 as part of the federal government’s initiative, in collaboration with states, to find a permanent solution to the recurring farmers, herders’ clashes.

“In this plan, the state government or private investors provide the land, the federal government does not and will not take any land from a state or local government.
“Any participating state will provide the land and its own contribution to the project. The federal government merely supports.

“It is a plan that hopes to birth tailor-made ranches where cattle are bred, and meat and dairy products are produced using modern livestock breeding and dairy methods.

“This solves the problem of cattle grazing into and destroying farmlands. It ensures a practical response to the pressures on water and pasture by forces of climate change,” Osinbajo had stated.
According to Osinbajo, the unique feature of the plan is that any participating state will determine its own model.

“I wish to emphasise that this is not RUGA. Because the idea of RUGA settlements launched by the Ministry of Agriculture created a problem when it was perceived as a plan to seize lands to create settlements for herders.

“RUGA was not the plan designed and approved by the governors and the president rightly suspended the implementation,” Osinbajo had said.

Dangote Commences Pre-testing of $2bn Fertilizer Plant ahead of Inauguration

Dangote Fertilizer Limited has begun countdown to the inauguration of its $2 billion Granulated Urea Fertilizer complex, with several critical sections of the plant going through various stages of pre-commissioning and test-run.

With a capacity of three million tonnes per annum, the plant complex located in the Dangote Free Zone, has been classified as the biggest project in the entire fertilizer industry history in the world.

Saipem of Italy is the Engineering, Procurement and Supervision (EP) Contractor for the project, while Tata Consulting Engineers, India, is the Project Management Consultants (PMC).
According to a statement yesterday by the company, virtually all the section of the plant such as Central Control Room, Ammonia and Urea Bulk Storage, Cooling Tower, Power Generator Plant, Granulation Plant, have been completed and are going through pre-testing.

Already, Dangote Fertilizer has started receiving gas supply from the Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) and Chevron Nigeria Limited (CNL) under the Gas Sale and Purchase Agreement to supply 70 million standard cubic feet per day (Scf/d) of natural gas to Dangote Fertilizer Limited.
The statement added that the project, which will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs in construction and related fields, will provide a major boost to the agricultural sector by significantly reducing the importation of fertilizer in Nigeria and ultimately removing the need for imports when the plant is in full production.

The Group Executive Director, Strategy, Portfolio Development and Capital Projects, Dangote Industries Limited, Mr. Devakumar Edwin, said Nigeria would be able to save $500 million from import substitution and provide $400 million from exports of products from the fertiliser plant.

“The supply of fertiliser from the plant will be enough for the Nigerian market and neighbouring countries.
“I am happy that by the time our plant is fully commissioned, the country will become self-sufficient in fertilizer production and even have the capacity to export the products to other African countries. Right now, farmers are forced to utilise whatever fertilizer that is available as they have no choice; but we need to know that the fertilizer that will work in one state may not be suitable in another state, as they may not have the same soil type and composition. The same fertilizer you use for sorghum may not be the fertilizer you will use for sugar cane,” Edwin explained.

He stated that the project, which is estimated to gulp $2 billion, is the largest granulated urea fertilizer complex in the world, with its three million tonnes per annum capacity.
According to him, the fertilizer complex, which is sited on 500 hectares of land, has the capacity to expand as it is only occupying a small fraction of the allotted portion of land.

Edwin added: “The management of the complex is confident that the fertilizer business will deliver reasonable profit to the company and its shareholders as it is projected that population growth and the need for food production will jack up the consumption of urea fertilizer beginning from 2020 when production of the production would have commenced in earnest.

“The current consumption of urea estimated at a dismal 700,000 tonnes per annum by Nigerian farmers is said to be due to very poor usage and is believed to be the cause of poor product yield, which threatens food security in the country.

“By 2020, Nigerian population is projected to increase to about 207 million, which would lead to increased food production. Estimates points out that around five million tonnes of fertilizers are required per year in Nigeria in the next five to seven years bifurcated into 3.5 million tonnes of urea and 1.5 million tonnes of NPK while current production levels in Nigeria are at 1.6 million tonnes by 2019.”

Kidnappers free JAMB, NSCDC officials in Kogi

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POLICE in Kogi State have  confirmed that the five officials of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) kidnapped on Obajana-Kabba Road over a week ago have been freed.

Also set free were five officials  of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) kidnapped on Ayingba Road.

A police statement issued on Tuesday said that all 10 kidnap  victims were hale and hearty, and have reunited with their families.

The statement, however did not say whether any ransom was paid or how much.

The JAMB workers were said to be traveling from the exam board’s Abuja office to Kogi ahead of a mock exam, while the NSCDC personnel were on their way for a  promotion examination in neighbouring Benue State when the kidnappers accosted them.