Are there exceptions to the Lenten abstinence rules?

How scrupulous does a person have to be about abstaining from meat on Fridays in Lent? I am normally fastidious about observing these rules. One day, my husband and I were on a plane heading back home from Los Angeles. We had just spent 16 or 17 hours flying back from Australia. There was no chance to get something to eat between flights. It was lunch time and the flight attendant handed each person a ham sandwich. I felt like I was starving and the flight attendant said there was no alternate lunch. My husband has no scruples, so he went ahead and ate the sandwich. I pulled the ham out of mine and ate the bread and mayonnaise. Do I really need to go to such ridiculous lengths to observe Church laws?

There is certainly exception to the abstinence regulations for those who are ill or for those for whom abstaining from meat would cause illness. If it would have caused illness for you not to eat meat, you were certainly free to eat the sandwich. If, however, the hunger was merely uncomfortable and could be managed until you landed and could have a non-meat meal, then the course you took was the better option. Offering up the discomfort to our Lord on the weekly memorial of the day he suffered and died for our sins is a small gift of thanksgiving and in no way “ridiculous.”

For the future, if you know that you will be traveling on a Lenten Friday, most airlines offer special meals for passengers who reserve them in advance. Calling ahead and reserving a vegetarian meal would be a prudent means of avoiding such dilemmas during air travel in the Lenten season.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit