Fasting is required of adult Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59. The required days of fasting are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Abstinence, which is refraining from the consumption of meat, is obliged for Catholics 14 and older. Catholics are obliged to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, including Good Friday. Universal Church law requires abstinence on all Fridays of the year, but in the United States, Catholics may perform another penance if they choose.

Some exceptions apply in particular circumstances. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops indicates the following exceptions on its website: “Those that are excused from fast and abstinence outside the age limits include the physically or mentally ill including individuals suffering from chronic illnesses such as diabetes. Also excluded are pregnant or nursing women.  In all cases, common sense should prevail, and ill persons should not further jeopardize their health by fasting.”

Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter at @HeinleinMichael.