Meatless Fridays

Earlier today, Dearest told me that, when he noted that hot dogs were on the menu for next Friday’s parish picnic, he asked the pastor, “Aren’t we supposed to not eat meat on Fridays?” and was told, “That’s only during Lent.”

I’m underwhelmed to say the least. I expect that kind of ignorance from other Catholics, because it’s what I was told many years ago also. But it was wrong. And once I learned that I was wrong, I instituted meatless Fridays in our home.

I would have hoped the pastor would have elaborated more on the actual situation instead of sending my husband home to tell me, on a Friday, as I was serving up fish salad, “You know, Father says we don’t need to do meatless Fridays any more.

The relevant portions of the Code of Canon Law states, “The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent. Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.” [1250, 1251]

Re: “from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference” – On November 18, 1966, the U.S. bishops issued the following directive to American Catholics:

Even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.” [24]

The bishops said it was important to continue the discipline to “remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate, personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.”

Father was correct in saying that, because the church removed the penalty of sin from eating meat on Friday, we don’t have to abstain from meat on Fridays outside of Lent. But this is a far cry from serving hot dogs at a Friday parish picnic.

Re: “unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday” – Solemnities are extra special feast days on which it would be inappropriate to do penance. Most of them are universal; some are local. Next Friday isn’t one of them.

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