Acceptable Substitutes for Friday Abstinence from Meat

Recent, I had an occasion where I really wanted to eat meat on a (normal, non-Lenten) Friday, and since it was already late in the day and it didn’t seem like I could sacrifice anything else–like, if I said, I won’t eat any sweats today, it would have just been because I wasn’t gong to eat any anyway–so I made a donation to my Church’s box. I am not really normally able to tithe, because I don’t actually even make enough to completely support myself and usually end up needing financial support from my family in case of emergencies, so it seemed like this was a genuine sacrifice, since I wouldn’t be able to use that money for something else. But I’m not sure if you’re only supposed to sacrifice some sort of immediate pleasurable thing for it to count.

Whatever you want. Completely up to you. What you did was fine.

Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, 1966:

In the first place, Holy Mother Church, although it has always observed in a special way abstinence from meat and fasting, nevertheless wants to indicate in the traditional triad of “prayerfasting—charity” the fundamental means of complying with the divine precepts of penitence. These means were the same throughout the centuries, but in our time there are special reasons whereby, according to the demands of various localities, it is necessary to inculcate some special form of penitence in preference to others.60 Therefore, where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given in order that the sons of the Church may not be involved in the spirit of the “world,” 61 and at the same time the witness of charity will have to be given to the brethren who suffer poverty and hunger beyond any barrier of nation or continent. 62 on the other hand, in countries where the standard of living is lower, it will be more pleasing to God the Father and more useful to the members of the Body of Christ if Christians—while they seek in every way to promote better social justice—offer their suffering in prayer to the Lord in close union with the Cross of Christ.

Therefore, the Church, while preserving—where it can be more readily observed—the custom (observed for many centuries with canonical norms) of practicing penitence also through abstinence from meat and fasting, intends to ratify with its prescriptions other forms of penitence as well, provided that it seems opportune to episcopal conferences to replace the observance of fast and abstinence with exercises of prayer and works of charity.

In order that all the faithful, however, may be united in a common celebration of penitence, the Apostolic See intends to establish certain penitential days and seasons63 chosen among those which in the course of the liturgical year are closer to the paschal mystery of Christ 64 or might be required by the special needs of the ecclesial community. 65

It is moot now, but yesterday was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and on a Solemnity we are not required to abstain.

(If you want to plan ahead, in a couple of weeks the Solemnity of the Nativity of St John the Baptist will fall on Friday 24 June)


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