Saturday, May 14, 2011
A Return to Abstinence from Meat on every Friday?
Catholic Witness - Friday Penance
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.
It seems to me that Catholicism in the UK is increasing in confidence and this, in many ways, is seen as a stamp of Catholic identity. It will be interesting to see if our own South African bishops will follow suit in due course.
Economic change has meant that "Fish on Friday" isn't really an option for penance as fish is more expensive than meat now-a-days! I wonder if Catholics will be known as "Egg Eaters" in the future!
From an information point of view this is what Canon Law has to say"
Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.
Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless (nisi) they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.
Canon 1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.