Catholic Witness - Friday Penance

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales put out the following announcement today, 13 May 2011, as part of their plenary resolutions from their May 2011 meeting (bolded text mine):By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in his death on the cross. We do so in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s passion; in fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; in almsgiving, by demonstrating our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need. All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness.

Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord. The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference. The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.

Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance. The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat. Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake. This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 when we will mark the anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.

Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.
Kudos to the English and Welsh bishops!!!

I think that’s awesome. I wish the U.S. bishops would do the same over here.

I think it’s particularly interesting that the bishops of the UK highlight the need for displaying our Catholic identity as part of our witness to the world. I’m hoping that the re-emergence of some of the traditions of the Catholic Church in the US (such as the EF of Mass,) we Catholics can once more become a more visible witness to the world of the mission of Christ.

Maybe the Friday abstinence can be re-adopted by people privately here, but while being somewhat vocal about it–e.g., ordering the fish sandwich at Mickey D’s, and commenting that you’re Catholic and don’t eat meat on Fridays, and that this is still done in many parts of the world.

We US Catholics really need to step out of the shadows in our devotional lives, and not just in the pro-life arena. Obviously, that issue is critical and basic, but the Church has a lot more to offer.

It’s unclear, to me anyway, what the USCCB policy of Friday fasting is; I’ve heard that the Friday practice of fasting from meat was not stopped but that another act of penance could be substituted. So on Fridays some act of penance must still be performed.

This is covered in the USCCB’s Pastoral Statement on Fasting and Abstinence (pdf) from 1966.

Thanks for the link!

I think if Catholics were better catechized on fasting more would want to do it. The juridical focus of most teaching on fasting one sees in the Latin Church doesn’t really get at the beauty of fasting and abstinence. The Eastern Churches have a lot to offer in the way of teachings on this. :slight_smile:

Hello I have a question for the theologians.
The statement from the Bishop’s has been bothering me.
They give the more traditional reason of sacrifice in memory of Christ’s death but the main reason seems to be Catholic identity and Catholic Witness.
My question is, can penance be used as a witness?
My understanding of penance would follow what Jesus says in Matthew about pray, fasting and almsgiving, in chapter 6, that all should be “done in secret” Matt 6:2-18. I thought that it was me being awkward but I can find no other teaching that links penance with witness. There is teaching about penance done in solidarity and penance that is done for the interior conversion that leads to outward action, but I can find none that states a penance is an act of witness.
I suppose this raises the question, what is a witness?
Pope Benedict often talks about witnesses, but normally in reference to love.
In my mind penance should be a hidden as it leads to humility, a public act has the danger of leading to pride. Pride is the deadliest of deadly sins. No one should know that we are fasting or abstaining. It can’t be “secret” and “in the public arena” that doesn’t cohere and my mind struggles with theology that isn’t coherent.

Is there a teaching that links witness and penance?

While others respond to you, I thought I’d also post a link to this Penance thread. It is long but Br. Jr, who is a Franciscan is a Penance Pro. He will surely give you a thorough answer.

It wasnt until I attended an Anglican Catholic mass that I observed the practice of “No flesh meat on Friday”

Ever since I read that in their bulletin, I no longer eat meat only fish or shrimp on Friday :thumbsup:

was just reading this today:

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