Has it been a tough Lent? Consider how Catholics around seven generations ago lived it.

For many in the 19th century, Lent meant no meat, eggs, butter, cheese or milk, for 40 days. Nearly every day during Lent also was a fast day — meaning long periods of no eating.

Rules varied by time and place. But before the 20th century, Catholics generally were required to restrict their intake (fasting) or refrain from eating certain foods (abstaining) or both, not only during Lent, but also throughout much of Advent and on so-called Ember Days (four periods of the year of three days of fasting and abstinence), and on most Wednesdays and Fridays at other times of the year.

Earlier generations of Catholics also fasted on the eve of holy days. They celebrated every holy day of obligation (there were as many of 45 of them in the mid-17th century) as a spiritual and literal feast — and every day before the feast day as a famine. 

When you do the math, you realize that, back in the day, Catholics were either fasting or abstaining for 100 or more days out of the year.

Why have the rules changed so drastically? Author Jay W. Richards has an answer: “Death by a thousand dispensations.”

Full story at National Catholic Register.