Canon 1249 reminds all Catholics of their obligation to do penance.
This obligation comes from the Gospel. Because of the value of taking part in a common observance of penance, penitential days are prescribed for us. On these days we pray more extensively, do works of piety or charity, fulfil our responsibilities more faithfully, and sometimes fast or abstain from meat.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence in New Zealand. All persons who have completed their fourteenth year of age are bound by the laws of abstinence. Those who have completed their eighteenth year of age are bound by the law of fasting up to the beginning of their sixtieth year.
In the Catholic Church, all Fridays are days of penance. Our Bishops’ Conference has stated that Catholics in New Zealand may fulfil the law of common practice of penance by performing any one of the following acts of piety or charity:
a) Abstaining from meat or some other food.
b) Abstaining from alcoholic drink, smoking, or some other form of amusement.
c) Fasting from all food for a longer period than usual.
d) Giving what is saved as a result of fasting and abstinence to the needy at home or abroad.
e) Going out of the way to help somebody who is poor, sick, old or lonely.
f) Making an extra effort in terms of family prayer, participating in the Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, or praying the Stations of the Cross.