Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday are ember days here in the Diocese of Bismarck. Voluntary fasting, prayer, and Mass attendance. See the video below for a crash-course; here, quoting from the Diocese’s website:
In the Church there had been special days set aside for fasting, penance, prayers of petition and processions. In addition to prayers for a bountiful harvest and the blessing of the fields, these special days, known as Rogation Days and Ember Days, included prayers for vocations to the priesthood. These days reflected the Church’s understanding of Jesus’ injunction: “The harvest is great but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for His harvest.” (Lk 10:2)
These days taken together constituted sixteen days of the liturgical year: 4 Rogation Days and 12 Ember Days. While Rogation Days fell within the Easter Season and thus, over time were not observed due to the fact that it was deemed inappropriate to fast and do penance in this time, the Ember Days remained a popular observance in the Church’s liturgical year.
In the first century Christians had been instructed to fast on every Wednesday and Friday and Pope St. Callistus (d. 222) added Saturday three times a year as another day of fast. In the time of Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461), the Romans had the tradition of fasting four times in a year: Lent, Pentecost, September and December. With the addition of Saturday fast, there were four “Ember weeks”. The first week of March, the second week of June (after Pentecost Sunday), the third week of September following the 14th (the Exaltation of the Holy Cross), and the week before Christmas Eve following St. Lucy’s Day.
In this “Year of Faith” as celebrated in the Diocese of Bismarck by the People of God, I ask that every Catholic who has celebrated his/her eighteenth birthday, on the following days: Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays of December 19, 21 & 22, 2012; March 6, 8 & 9, 2013; June 12, 14 & 15, 2013; September 18, 20 & 21, 2013, observe, if possible, the spirit of the Rogation and Ember Days by:
1. Fast (1 full meal and 2 lesser meals) in order to overcome the temptations to sin and to better dispose oneself to love and do the will of God (Mk 4:1-11);
2. Perform an act of self-denial in order to seek reconciliation for sins and the cultivation of personal conversion to the Lord and greater holiness of life;
3. Pray three times each day for God’s protection from evil, for a greater and deeper understanding of our Catholic Faith, and in thanksgiving for God’s abundant blessings;
4. Attend and participate at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass once in the three days and offer one’s Holy Communion for the intentions of the defense of Religious Liberty in our nation and for vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.
In this way we take to heart what the Second Vatican Council taught: “. . . the traditional customs and usages of the sacred seasons are preserved or restored to suit the conditions of modern times; their specific character is to be retained, so that they duly nourish the devotion of the faithful who celebrate the mysteries of Christian redemption and above all the paschal mystery.” (SC 107)