Friday Abstinence


#1

After returning to the church over two years ago and being away for over twenty years, I have been actively trying to re-educate myself on Catholic teachings. Before I left the church the no meat rule was lifted however upon returning I read that technically we should be doing some kind of penance. I got the impression that it was not necessarly mandatory but we “should” do something to either replace the abstinence by abstaining from something else or some other form of penance. I took it upon myself to continue to abstain from meat on Fridays because it really didn’t seem like a big deal to give it up. When I didn’t abstain I usually gave up dessert at night. The other day I was at a Catholic funeral where meat was served afterward and decided to eat meat however I didn’t abstain from dessert later. I was speaking to a priest last night casually and he said that if we know we should abstain from something than it is wrong not to. I’m still confused because I don’t know if that means it is a mortal sin not to abtain from something on Friday or in place do a charitable act. Could someone clarify this? Many Catholics are not even aware of this, so it’s hard for me to grasp why it would be sinful if the church doesn’t make sure that people know that this is a rule.
Thanks,


#2

Abstaining from meat on Fridays outside Lent in most countries including the US is not required but some form of penance is. You may choose the form of penance.

CCC 1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).


#3

In place of the meat abstinence, I personally fast from Thursday dinner to Friday dinner (24 hours). While I usually eat fish for dinner, I sometimes eat beef or chicken.

My wife usually fasts for breakfast on Fridays.

There are many ways to mark the holy day; some of our friends don’t watch any TV, some bike to work and back on Fridays, etc.


#4

So does that mean it is a grave sin not to give up something? I can’t seem to get a clear answer. Again, I don’t understand why most Catholics I speak to don’t know about this.


#5

Jimmy Akin has given a good explanation here on the Catholic Answers site. Read the whole article for an explanation. A few excerpts:

As a result, there appears to be no legal obligation in the United States to practice penance on Friday, but Friday remains a day on which the bishops have urged all to do penance and, in particular, recommended the continued practice of abstinence.

It would have been a crushing rejoinder to their potential critics if the bishops had said something like “Though we have terminated the obligation to abstain, the faithful are nevertheless bound to perform a penance of their choice on Fridays and thus the Catholic practice of Friday penance remains in place even though the form the penance takes is now left to the determination of the individual.”

The fact that the bishops don’t say this or anything remotely like it indicates that it was not the bishops’ intent to create an alternative obligation.

Thus we conclude that the American bishops have exercised their competence, later acknowledged by canon 1253 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, to “determine more precisely” the observance of abstinence by restricting the obligation to do it to a few days a year (Ash Wednesday, the non-solemnity Fridays of Lent, and Good Friday—the last being part of the Triduum rather than Lent) and by recommending the continued practice of abstinence and other penances on other Fridays.

In doing so, they did not completely eliminate the legal obligation to do penance on Fridays. They restricted the legal obligation to certain Fridays of the year and replaced it with an exhortation to penance on the remaining Fridays.

When one reads canons 1251 and 1253, it is not obvious that this would be within their competence to do, since the canons speak primarily in terms of the national conference substituting penances. But canon 1253 also says that “the conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as” substituting penances. This means that its ability to “determine more precisely” the observance of abstinence is not limited to substituting something else for it.

Ultimately, the Code means what Rome says it means, and Rome confirmed *On Penance and Abstinence, *thus making it the law for Latin Catholics in the United States.


#6

This was available on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, I hope it helps. Any bolding of the text is my own emphasis. I found this through their search engine using the terms “Friday Penance.”

Christ Died for
Our Salvation
on Friday
18. Gratefully remembering this, Catholic peoples from time
immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential
observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they
may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the
tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday where that
tradition has been observed in the holy Catholic Church.
19. Changing circumstances, including economic, dietary, and social
elements, have made some of our people feel that the renunciation of
the eating of meat is not always and for everyone the most effective
means of practicing penance. Meat was once an exceptional form of
food; now it is commonplace.
20. Accordingly, since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we
discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day
abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation
of other things would be more penitential.
21. For these and related reasons, the Catholic bishops of the United
States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of
Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of
penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died,
urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following
norms.
22. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance
throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be
mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are
called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified.
23. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the
entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly
Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a
day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the
passion of Jesus Christ.
24. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance
which we especially commend to our people for the future observance
of Friday, 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. Our expectation
is based on the following considerations:
a. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ
Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of
believers to whom this practice frequently became,
especially in times of persecution and of great poverty,
no mean evidence of fidelity to Christ and His Church.
b. We shall thus also 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.
25. Every Catholic Christian understands that the fast and
abstinence regulations admit of change, unlike the
commandments and precepts of that unchanging divine
moral law which the Church must today and always defend
as immutable. This said, we emphasize that our people are
henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding
under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence,
except as noted above for Lent.
We stress this so that "no"
scrupulosity will enter into examinations of conscience,
confessions, or personal decisions on this point.
26. Perhaps we should warn those who decide to keep the
Friday abstinence for reasons of personal piety and special
love that they must not pass judgment on those who elect to
substitute other penitential observances. Friday, please God,
will acquire among us other forms of penitential witness which
may become as much a part of the devout way of life in the future
as Friday abstinence from meat. In this connection we have
foremost in mind the modern need for self-discipline in the use of
stimulants and for a renewed emphasis on the virtue of
temperance, especially in the use of alcoholic beverages.
27. It would bring great glory to God and good to souls if Fridays
found our people doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the
sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the
young in the Faith, participating as Christians in community
affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends,
our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a
special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the
other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.
28. In summary, let it not be said that by this action, implementing
the spirit of renewal coming out of the Council, we have abolished
Friday, repudiated the holy traditions of our fathers, or diminished
the insistence of the Church on the fact of sin and the need for
penance. Rather, let it be proved by the spirit in which we enter
upon prayer and penance, not excluding fast and abstinence freely
chosen, that these present decisions and recommendations of this
conference of bishops will herald a new birth of loving faith and
more profound penitential conversion, by both of which we
become one with Christ, mature sons of God, and servants of
God’s people.
N.B. The effective date of these regulations is the first
Sunday of Advent, November 27, 1966.

Source


#7

Thank you for finding this. I found the first article but it wasn’t clear until I read the part you highlighted. It seemed that no one really could give me a straight answer and I was concerned that I unintentionly did something wrong.

This said, we emphasize that our people are
henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding
under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence,
except as noted above for Lent.
:thumbsup:


#8

I see from reading your last post that you got the answer that you wanted. I think all Catholics should do something, a charitable act, on every Friday even if it’s not during Lent. And then during Lent do a charitable act plus give up the meat. But if it’s no big deal to give up meat then give up something else that you really love to eat. And on top of that do the charitable act.

If it’s no big deal to give up meat than you are not doing any kind of penance when you do that. What you can probably do also (since giving up meat is no big deal) is to eat a kind of fish that you really don’t like. Or eat the fish with no butter or seasonings or anything extra that you would put on it to make it taste better. Now that’s doing penance.


#9

Of course that is what I wanted not because I don’t plan to continue but I don’t want to offend God and be separated from His graces. Okay, I should have phrased that differently. Although I said it was no big deal, what I should have said is that I continued to abstain from meat on friday because I felt that was the least I could do for Christ. It isn’t convenient to abstain on friday but I choose to do it. I’m the only practicing Catholic in my house and I work at an Evangelical University. Unfortunately I’m not in the position to volunteer services on that day since I work full time and have other commitments. In fact I do volunteer my time at church many weekends in addition to watching my grandson so my daughter can work. I hope that some day I’ll be in the position to do more for others but like most people my time is very limited.


#10

Absolutely. :yup: I know how you feel.

I think you meant “it isn’t inconvenient to abstain” right? I love steak but I rarely eat it. :frowning: I love fish too. But I stick with fish on Fridays during lent. Like you said, it’s the least I could do. :yup:

That’s great. Your vocation in life is good. Some people think that if all they do is work but have little or no time to do volunteer work that it’s bad. That’s not true. But I think you would know that. :wink:

It sounds like you do plenty right now. :thumbsup: You work, you volunteer on weekends, you watch your grandson. That’s great. God knows what you do and he knows your heart. I don’t think I would worry if you can’t do much on Fridays, whether it’s during Lent or not, because you do plenty at other times. Since you’re Catholic I’m sure you know that you can offer all that you do to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Morning Offering
O Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and
sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of
Your Sacred Heart, in union with the
Holy Sacrafice of the Mass throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins, for the intentions
of all our associates, and in particular for the
intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.


#11

My family abstains from meat on Fridays… on the rare occasion when we can’t, we choose another day to abstain usually Sunday.

I get more understanding from my non-Catholic friends and my ultra Catholic friends. It seems that the rank and file Catholic is not participating in any form of penance. The only other family I am sure abstains is my bosses family and they do on Wednesdays because of business dinners on Friday nights.


#12

I too wondered about the Friday penace. My family practiced it throughout my childhood by abstaining from meat every Friday. I thought the Friday penance was still in place, but so many Catholics seem to be unaware of it, so I too asked CAF in 6/08 if I was wrong about it. I was directed to the Jimmy Akin link below:

catholic.com/thisrock/2005/0501bt.asp

I generally abstain from meat every Friday of the year to observe my Friday penance. If for some rare reason I do not abstain (i.e., my birthday fell on Friday this year so I abstained during the other meals that day, but I did have meat for dinner and said extra prayers in place of abstaining for dinner), I choose another form of penance for the day.


#13

Why Sunday? That’s the day of the Ressurection. That’s the one day of the week to celebrate.


#14

Why Sunday? That’s the day of the Ressurection. That’s the one day of the week to celebrate.
[/quote]

I thought the same thing, “why Sunday?” I thought of this bible passage when BlestOne said that they fast on Sundays sometimes;
Matthew 9:14-15
14 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?”
[size=]15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.[/size]
The Bridegroom is with us on Sundays because we just received Him in Holy Communion at the Wedding Feast! :heart:


#15

[quote=USCCB]This said, we emphasize that our people are
henceforth free from the obligation traditionally binding
under pain of sin in what pertains to Friday abstinence,
except as noted above for Lent.
[/quote]

It took quite a few paragraphs to finally get to the actual answer to the question, and even then, the answer was buried in one sentence within paragraph 25.

No wonder people are confused. Whatever happened to the virtue of clarity?


#16

It is a lost virtue in the Information Age, I’m afraid. We see this on this board, unfortunately, as we often have to sort through several pages of a thread before we may even understand what the first post was getting at.

I suspect consensus hath murdered clarity in this case.


#17

It took quite a few paragraphs to finally get to the actual answer to the question, and even then, the answer was buried in one sentence within paragraph 25.

No wonder people are confused. Whatever happened to the virtue of clarity?
[/quote]

This is clear to many of us. We realize that abstaining from meat on Fridays throughout the year is optional.

But if it was just left to that paragraph to make things clear, it wouldn’t be good on its own.
We as Catholics need to combine more penance with our prayers, and this is a good example of why and how we should do this, at least on Fridays or even on First Fridays of the month if anyone is devoted to those for Jesus. :heart:

I really like this paragraph:
24. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and
personal penance
which we especially commend
to our people for the future observance of Friday,
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. Our expectation is based on the following
considerations:

[INDENT]a. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ
Crucified
show our solidarity with the generations
of believers to whom this practice frequently
became
, especially in times of persecution and
of great poverty, no mean evidence of fidelity to
Christ and His Church.

b. We shall thus also 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
.[/INDENT]


#18

I realize that to be a bishop, and particularly to be a member of bureaucracy, such as the USCCB, is inevitably to afflicted with verbiage.

Yes, they want us to continue to practice the traditional Friday abstinence from meat. They also wanted to assure us that failure to do so, except for Lenten Fridays, is no longer a sin, and need not be confessed. It shouldn’t be that hard to say.


#19

:yup: For sure. :thumbsup:


#20

Boy, I’m glad I found this thread… I have been abstaining from meat on Friday’s since I’ve become Catholic. But it’s just a habit now. I really think I better find another form of penance since the other is a habit. I know good habits can be good but if it takes away the thought of it as a penance then I need to either add a penance or do another penance all together.

God Bless,
stveronica3


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