Speaking of the Sacrament of Penance in his "Address given at the USCCB General Assembly Fall meeting on November 12, 2012," Timothy Cardinal Dolan says:
The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. Our pastoral plan offers numerous resources for catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance, and the manifold graces that come to us from the frequent use of confession.
I do hope this happens. It is quite difficult for me personally to remember to do Friday penance throughout the year, including during Lent, for two reasons:
In my experience there is no culture of penance. It is relegated to being "that thing we do during Lent" and it is not mentioned from the pulpit at Sunday Mass here. However, it is printed in my parish's bulletin that we must abstain and fast as required during Lent. I do not think a return to meatless Fridays throughout the year will suddenly solve our problems, but I do think it will remind us of our obligations to do Friday penance and make it much easier to remember since there will only be one way of doing it. I believe there are many Catholics who don't even know they are required to do a penance every Friday. I think a large part of the success of this, if it happens, will be whether we make it a part of regular parish culture or not. Think Friday fish fries, which are common in some places during Lent. I think making a practice such as this a staple of parish life every Friday or one Friday a month would contribute hugely to the success of a reinstatement of meatless Fridays throughout the year for parishes where something like this is feasible.
In my experience the whys and wherefores of doing penance are not really discussed. I do know why we do it, but it is easy to forget or overlook. This might be a symptom of the expectation that Catholics already know why we do it, I don't know. Regardless, if this comes to happen, I think the reasons should be regularly discussed and reminders should be frequently given; in the context of the Friday fish fry tradition, someone in the parish could compose a short but powerful prayer appropriate to the theme of penance which could be prayed at every such event. This could also contribute to a strengthening of parish identity.
I am in full support of a return to meatless Fridays.
What are your thoughts? What would contribute to the success of a return to such a practice? What is your personal experience?