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Ember Days are observed four times during the liturgical year in the weeks following Ash Wednesday, Pentecost, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and Feast of St. Lucy. This Wednesday (Sept. 15), Friday (Sept. 17) and Saturday (Sept. 18) are known as Ember Days. 
 
Bishop Glen John Provost has made the observance of prayer and penance on Ember Days particular law in the Diocese of Lake Charles. Accordingly, Catholics in the Diocese of Lake Charles are urged to observe prayer and penance on the Ember Days.
 
How should I observe the Ember Days?
 
In general, extra prayer and the observance of penance will be necessary on these days. Speaking more specifically though, and in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Office of Liturgy of the Diocese of Lake Charles, these recommendations are made for your consideration:
 
Prayer
  1. Attend holy Mass on each Ember Day.
  2. Make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, or at least a brief visit, on each Ember Day.
  3. Pray the Rosary, preferably as a family, on each Ember Day.
  4. Make prayers of reparation for the sins of the clergy, for the clergy’s sanctification, for the conversion of sinners, for the strengthening of faith for all Christians, and for the healing of victims of abuse on each Ember Day.
Penance
  1. Observe partial abstinence each Ember Wednesday and Saturday. 
    1. Partial abstinence: meat and soup or gravy cooked with meat permitted once a day at the principal meal.
  2. Observe complete abstinence each Ember Friday.
    1. Complete abstinence: the total abstinence from meat and soup or gravy cooked with meat by those 14 years of age and older. (Until 1966, the requirement to abstain from meat began at 7 years of age.)
  3. Fasting from food.
    1. Those age 18-59 will limit food intake to one full meal and, if needed, two collations (“snacks”), which when combined, do not exceed a full meal on each Ember Day.
  4. Fasting from media.
    1. Other than for work, make a complete and total fast from all electronic media on each Ember Day.
What are Ember Days?
 
By an ancient and immemorial practice of the Roman Church, each of the seasons in the yearly circle of the Earth around its star is sanctified by the Church on what are known as Ember Days, or in Latin quatuor tempora, meaning “the four times”. On the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of these four weeks, which were spread out roughly at the change of each season, both the clergy and the lay faithful would offer to God the tribute of prayer and fasting for three purposes: first, to thank Him for the blessings of the season just past and to ask for blessings on the season to come; second, in reparation for sins and asking grace to reform life going forward; and third, for the sanctification of the clergy.
 
The origins of the Ember Days are ancient and venerable. The great liturgical historian Dom Propser Guéranger notes that the Apostles probably took these times of prayer and fasting over from the Jews (The Liturgical Year, vol. 1, 218). The Didache, a First Century document attributed to the Twelve Apostles, notes that early Christians fasted each Wednesday (the day the Lord was betrayed) and Friday (the day He was crucified and died) of the week. In Rome, the observance would later also be extended to Saturday (the day Christ “slept” in the tomb). In order to “keep vigil with Peter,” Saturday prayer and penance found its way beyond Rome. Indeed, there is ample historical evidence affirming the observance of the Ember Days in the Roman Rite at least since the 200s.  
 
List of the Ember Days remaining in A.D. 2021 
  • September 15, 17, 18; December 15, 17, 18.

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