Out of town family dinner on Good Friday?


Please forgive my ignorance, but this is my first Easter as a Catholic. I know that, in memory of Jesus’ death, Good Friday is a day of penance and prayer. I know that it is also a day of fast and abstinence…although I am pregnant so not so much for me. I also know that we are not to take part in any recreational activities, especially public ones.

My question concerns my family’s annual Easter dinner. My grandparents live out of town and we always go down to their farm for holidays. We don’t see them much outside of that.

This year, due to various non-Catholic family members’ schedules, it looks as though the dinner may take place on Good Friday. Saturday is still an option and I am praying for that one!!!

I need to know what you would do in my situation. While I don’t consider visiting my grandparents to be recreational or party-like, it is usually a feast. I don’t know how fair it would be to my Catholic hubby to ask him to come and then not be able to eat. And I know that it would be very hard for me to resist overeating my grandma’s traditional Ukrainian meal. But should we still go? Should we just consider it part of our sacrifice/penance?

I could really use your advice and opinions.


  1. We Catholics commemorate Good Friday as the day when our Lord Jesus died on the Cross to save mankind. As Human Society everywhere in the World normally observe Death of a “Dear Departed” as an event of sorrowful separation from Friends and from Family, Celebrations (of any kind) are usually avoided.

  2. In our present-day World-of-Contradictions, you and your Husband’s absence in a Family Reunion Dinner (already set on Good Friday) could be insulting to your own Family. Hence, I recommend that you attend your Family Reunion Dinner (and have laughter and fun) - BUT only after asking everyone to pause for a “Moment-of-Prayer” in memory of Christ’ Suffering. Furthermore, I would recommend that you ask your Catholic Husband to lead the prayer. In so doing, I would like to believe that non-Catholics in that Family Reunion would likewise get to respect Catholic Tradition of Prayer & Sobriety on Good Fridays.

  3. I do not believe that Jesus died on Good Friday for Families to be broken by different Faiths.


I agree with manilaman that your husband should not hesitate to attend. I like the second suggestion but figure you’ll have to adapt as the situation allows.

Why do I suggest that we put aside these traditions on such a holy day as Good Friday? Because I think that’s what St. Paul would have us do. I think they are more interesting in infiltrating a room of heterodox and winning them over for the Lord (even if at first to ourselves) and letting us see how much we believe we are in communion with them – not showing them how different from them we can be.

Here, I think this makes my point more clearly. If they do not believe in fasting and you are invited, go and eat what is put before you without raising matters of conscience.

Of course, given you know of this in advance, it probably couldn’t hurt to discuss this with your pastor to get advice and possible a dispensation.

Like maniliman wrote, I think that family unity is a greater call (only in the ways they conflict) over obedience to fasting rules, other things being constant. After all, the bishop in our diocese and many others gave a dispensation for Catholics to eat meat on St. Patrick’s day, so I don’t think it is too much to ask that one be excused on Good Friday.

Maybe your husband doesn’t even want to eat meat, or much of it, and that’s fine too – I say as long as he doesn’t do so wearing a “I’m Catholic so I have to abstain” sign on his head.

That said, the subject could very well come up, in which case it could be a great way for him to minister to them, showing them that Catholics don’t just go around arbitrarily flogging themselves in public. :thumbsup:



But the Catholic Forums apologists disagree with the prior posters here suggesting you celebrate with a feast and family (even if you fast, not just abstain, as required by canon law). The priest seems to be advising that any celebration on Good Friday is strictly against the solemn, mournful nature of the day. As he writes, Jesus’ death on the cross should mean something to us that day.


Family unity is nice, but loyalty to our Lord and obedience to His Church are more important. As Jesus said, as recorded in the Book of Luke:

51 Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation. 52 For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

I know it would be embarrassing and cause family discord, but if I were in your position, I would not go to the dinner.


P.S. Also, part of being Catholic is being a witness, and not by celebrating on Good Friday, then using that as an excuse to explain what Good Friday means to the non-Catholics. That’s like saying a Catholic could effectively witness by skipping Mass on Sunday to attend a Protestant service, then explaining to the Protestants her Catholic faith. A true witness would be to behave as a practicing Catholic on that day. It would cause scandal to behave otherwise in front of people who know you are Catholic. That would be especially damaging to children who witness you behavior, as Jesus admonishes us never to do anything to prevent little ones from coming to him in faith. That admonishment is not limited to meaning that we need to raise our own children in the true faith, but means that we should not set bad examples for any children, even strangers, who might see us.


It is hard for me to apply the apologetics answers referenced above to this case, because in those cases the question seemed like it was aimed toward whether to plan an event.

Here we have an event that we had no involvement in planning. We have elderly relatives involved and of course who knows but when we have seen them for the last time.

When we are concerned about appearances, what does it say to the others there if we do not attend? Perhaps Catholicism means that you can’t see your family any more?

As far as concern over appearances, how is it that bishops decided to let Catholics eat meat for St. Patrick’s day? To me, this indicates that even among clergy there is a notion of keeping cultural traditions ahead of Church obedience to fasting.

Setting a good example for others is wonderful, but I am troubled at Catholics who believe that they must always have a “I am a Catholic” badge on and would purport to be a good example of a Catholic so that others may not think ill of Catholics. Of course it isn’t just that they don’t think ill of us, but what they think ill of us about.

Again, looking to St. Paul for strategy, he blends in, and that’s how he brings other people to God. One must be clever in the world if one intends to pillage the world for souls to bring to God. St. Paul stated without reservation at all that he himself is a people pleaser and a chameleon, according to the modern usage of these terms. Of course this goes against our upbringing where we are unrealistically taught that we should behave the same way no matter who is around. In reality, everybody does and in fact should adjust their behavior to respect their surroundings.

Clearly the gist of this passage is not that St. Paul should “act Catholic” so as to avoid scandal. He acts like those he is around.

I understand the strategy of people wanting to “look and act Catholic” but I choose a different strategy that I think is more in line with St. Paul’s.



[quote=TridentineFan]I know it would be embarrassing and cause family discord, but if I were in your position, I would not go to the dinner.

I agree with TridentineFan. I’m sorry, but I would not put God or the Church on hold over a family dinner. I would explain to those hosting, that it is very important to you and your husband that this dinner not be on Good Friday. Hopefully, your family would be sensitive to the situation. If not, then I would not attend and though it may be a sad thing, I’d offer it up to God. To do otherwise, IMHO, is to simply call yourself a Catholic in name, but when things get tough, Catholicism takes a backseat.


Also, if one chooses to decline such an invitation as this, one does not have to mean or self-righteous. You could gently explain the situation, put all the “blame” on yourself, refrain from implying that the hosts are “bad,” then offer other suggestions.

“I know this must seem so silly to others that we do not want to celebrate anything on Good Friday. I do hope you can understand that this is how we practice our faith. We look forward so much each year to visiting with Grandma and Grampa! This is terribly disappointing to us that we will be missing out on dinner to honor Good Friday. Is there any way we could join you on Friday for something less celebratory? Maybe we could take a walk in the park on Friday afternoon? Or could we get together for brunch on Saturday morning? We’d love to be flexible about another time to get together with the family because we know how inconvenient this is to you all.”


According to the Catechism, failing to bear witness to the truth is breaking the eighth commandment:

  1. The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness: they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant.

Taking part in the life of the Church (such as observing the most solemn day in the liturgical calendar) is an obligation of witnessing the truth.

  1. The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.269
    **All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new man which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation.**270

Source: usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect2chpt2art8.htm

St. Paul did become all things to all men to save some, but he never advocated sinning (e.g., contradicting the precepts of the Church). Jesus spent time with sinners, yet he never sinned. Therefore, we can assume he spent time with pimps, but never pimped women; he spent time with prostitutes, but never prostituted himself; he spent time with pagans, but never participated in pagan rituals. Thus, we can, and should, be flexible in our behavior to save various people without sinning to do so.

Yes, sadly, sometimes being Catholic does put a sword between one and one’s biological family. As Jesus said clearly, He is to take primacy over our biological relations.


I can see the predicament here. If this was my first Easter as a Catholic I would want to be experiencing all the church has going on during the Triduum.

But , family is important as well. I’d have asked the family to have it a different weekend ahead of time. So I hope you did that explaining why. If it is too late to change plans and they can’t then I’d go. However, I would not eat meat on Friday and do my best to fast. I really don’t see why you can’t. I’d also try to get to a Catholic church for as many of the Triduum activities as I could. You should still have time for family.

Then remind them in advance for next years get together to be done differently.


I would go, take DH - and simply limit what you eat. You can eat one small meal, make this your small meal - skip meat and sweets. You can do this :slight_smile:


This business about not eating meat may not be that big a deal at all, depending on the situation. At our family get-togethers, there is usually enough variety in the food served that one could make a reasonable meal without eating meat. If one wishes to follow the “letter” of the rules, then one could do that. As for Good Friday being too sad an occasion to attend some party like that, we can observe Christ’s sorrow without going around frowning.

I think it’s important to know what is absolute and what is not. Fasting from meat on Fridays is clearly not an absolute “natural law” or anything like that, or we wouldn’t just blithely throw it off to celebrate St. Patrick’s day – which is also during Lent.

As far as witnessing to others, how can I witness to people if I’m not there? What is my absence going to say to them? My guess is the last thing it will do is increase their respect for Catholicism. If they are good and loving family members they will respect me personally for holding up to your convictions, but in their minds will they have a greater respect for the Church who has now “removed” me from the family?

Perhaps in the future they will be more sensitive in scheduling the meal, but we’re dealing with the here and now of the occasion and invitation before us. Actually, my biggest temptation might be to use the Church as an excuse to miss it and not have to put up with a bunch of relatives I don’t like seeing. So if I really wasn’t interested in seeing them, I could easily blame it on Church rules. :smiley: (If that’s not the case, then of course the relatives – without me there – are left to draw their own conclusions.)

It is my personal opinion that it would not be sinful to eat with clear conscience among those who invited me to a dinner, and I would have no problem explaining it to my children or other Catholics who might ask about it. To cover one’s ground, it is probably best to consult a priest about it – but to not go at all, to me, seems like a religious slap in the face.

Actually I am dealing with a family get-together this weekend, and we are expected to show up tomorrow night. We are just going to have to get there late because I play organ for Stations of the Cross on Lenten Friday evenings. That’s OK, though, and there will be no pressure to eat meat because they are all Catholic. I don’t see that one cannot respect the Church and visit one’s family in the same day – that just doesn’t compute IMO.



[quote=kage_ar]I would go, take DH - and simply limit what you eat. You can eat one small meal, make this your small meal - skip meat and sweets. You can do this :slight_smile:

There you go. Simple and non-controversial. Even at a banquet one can usually eat in moderation without creating a scene. :thumbsup:



[quote=Seatuck]But , family is important as well. I’d have asked the family to have it a different weekend ahead of time. So I hope you did that explaining why. If it is too late to change plans and they can’t then I’d go. However, I would not eat meat on Friday and do my best to fast. I really don’t see why you can’t. I’d also try to get to a Catholic church for as many of the Triduum activities as I could. You should still have time for family.

Then remind them in advance for next years get together to be done differently.

This is a unique situation for our family. We almost always end up going for Easter dinner on Saturday or Sunday…even Monday once in awhile. It has never happened on Good Friday (and, depending on work schedules, it still may not). So, this not being the norm, I didn’t think to bring it up ahead of time.

**As for getting to Church on Friday, that wouldn’t be possible. We go out to my grandparents as a family and stay all day (they are on a farm about an hour and a half from home). **



Some of the answers here confuse me. Is Good Friday a day of fasting as well as abstaining from meat, or not?

Could someone also please explain the rules of fasting to me again? I think it is something like 2 small meals and 1 medium sized one where the two small meals don’t amount to more than the larger one. But what does that really mean?

And when I am surrounded by all of my grandma’s wonderful food how am I to choose? I don’t want to just eat anything I want because I’m pregnant…but I know that it will be a huge temptation for me as we only get her traditional Ukrainian cooking at Christmas and Easter.

This all may be for nothing as my dad may not be able to make it back in time for Friday dinner (he is a truck driver). My sister doesn’t know yet if she works on Saturday or not, we are waiting for her schedule. So, it is really all up in the air, nothing confirmed. I will keep praying that it works out so we can go on Saturday… but I want to be prepared if it turns out being on Friday.



Good Friday is a day of fast AND abstinence. So all people 14 and over should abstain from meat and all 18 to 59 should eat one main meal and two smaller meals (not totalling a complete meal). Pregnant women and the infirm are excused from these regulations. What constitutes a “main meal” is a little more difficult (akin to what constitutes “grave” reasons for avoiding in NFP). I tend to think of it as a normal meal; a portion of protein, a portion or two of grains, and fruit/veggie. I would think, knowing how MY family feasts, that this would be an easy thing to do at this event. I would suggest speaking with your priest about this on your husband’s behalf (or having him speak with the priest). Hopefully it will not be an issue and it will happen on Saturday instead.


Last evening this same question came up on CA Live last night - listen to the archives!


[quote=kage_ar]Last evening this same question came up on CA Live last night - listen to the archives!

Wow, thank you for that information! It was very easy to find, as it was on in the first hour archive, right at the beginning.

I really enjoyed the way Jimmy Akin handled the issue of what messages we as Catholics send to the Protestants in the family.

After listening to him, I am more convinced that the “better” thing to do is to go – that it’s not only permissible but could be advisable – and to do is with a “smile” on (referencing Christ’s teaching on fasting without sack cloth and ashes). However, I leaning toward thinking they should either plan to obey the fasting/abstinence rules for the day.

Overall, I really thought it was a good radio call, there was a very good discussion, and it was almost exactly like this thread OP situation except the radio caller converted to Catholicism in 2000 I think.



[quote=AlanFromWichita]Wow, thank you for that information! It was very easy to find, as it was on in the first hour archive, right at the beginning.


I would have posted a link or something - but, work beckoned. Glad you found it :slight_smile:


Don’t we have to mindful of charity in these situations? Like…how hurt and/or secretly devastated are your grandparents going to be if you and hubby don’t show up? I think you’ve mentioned you only have one other sister…so would Easter be ‘ruined’ if, even though you explained very gently your reasoning, given that they aren’t Catholic–they truly might not understand and be far too hurt to interpret your choice not to attend as a witness to the faith?

Kind of like how priests often advise that family members should attend fake weddings if it would be a greater sin against charity not to go…

As for not overeating/indulging–that’s just a matter of personal choice and exercising free will. Sure it may be hard to pass up seconds, but you could still take some home to eat later. :slight_smile:

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