Friday, February 25, 2011

Fasting on Fridays?

I confess...I'm a hit-or-miss when it comes to the no-meat-on-Fridays thing. In my heart I want to abstain, but occasionally I totally blow it. This week I'm being good--so far. I had oatmeal for breakfast, a salad and a spinach calzone for lunch (Pizza Joe's, you rock) and so far no snacks. Hopefully I can hold out through the rest of today.

I don't know about you all, but I get conflicting stories when it comes to Friday abstinence. Some say we don't do it anymore, others say that "oh, yes we do!", still others say it's not official but if you want to its your option.

So I went digging.

Here's what I found...

From the Code of Cannon Law:
Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

from the Vatican Website, Code of Cannon Law (CLICK HERE).

The USCCB has done what Can. 1253 perscribes. Directly from the USCCB Website:
Ash Wednesday—This day marks the beginning of the Lenten season. The imposition of ashes is an ancient penitential practice symbolizing our dependence upon God's mercy and forgiveness. Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence in the Church.

Good Friday—Christ suffered and died for our salvation on Friday. On the Friday that we call "Good," the Church gathers to commemorate Jesus' Passion and death. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence. The Good Friday fast is the Paschal fast—a fast of anticipation and longing for the Passover of the Lord, which should continue, when possible, through Holy Saturday.

Fridays During Lent—In the United States, the tradition of abstaining from meat on each Friday during Lent is maintained.

Fridays Throughout the Year—In memory of Christ's suffering and death, the Church prescribes making each Friday throughout the year a penitential day. All of us are urged to prepare appropriately for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday.

from USCCB Website, "Penitential Practices for Today's Catholics: Penitential Days" (CLICK HERE)

The USCCB also lists on the same page 15 forms of penance that we can do every Friday of the year. So the answer is YES, we still abstain from meat on Fridays, and we have 14 other options to do along with (or instead of if you are unable to abstain).

As a bit of commentary, I love this statement from the USCCB: "All of us are urged to prepare appropriately for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday." If every Sunday is Easter, then every Friday is Good Friday.

So let's all make it a Good Friday!

UPDATE: I added more information about Friday abstinence HERE.


Daniel said...

Hi Gina! Thanks for sharing this. I too like the statement about every Friday being Good Friday, as every Sunday is Easter Sunday. Make sense:)

I miss everyone from our weekend. I am in a bible study on Thursday nights, but hope to still make an ultreya soon.

I am so grateful to you and all the leaders for the amazing gifts you shared with me. I am so blessed.

Decolores!! Love, Kathy

Fr. Bill Loveless said...

I appreciated reading again the Church regulation on abstinence and fasting, but I wonder if the distinction is clear between them. Abstinence is not eating meat and that is prescribed for Catholics 14 years of age and up on Fridays of Lent, Good Friday, and Ash Wednesday. It is encouraged every Friday of the year. Fasting - as it has been observed by Catholics in the 21st century - involves eating one full meal and eating one or two other small meals that are not supposed to equal a full meal. Fasting is required of Catholics on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If my 62-year-old memory serves, before the Second Vatican Council, Catholics were required to fast on the weekdays of Lent and to observe a partial abstinence (with full abstinence on Fridays), which meant eating meat only at the principal meal of the day. In any case, we are not required to "fast" on Fridays; we are required to "abstain from meat" on Lenten Fridays and encouraged to abstain on other Fridays.

Gina said...

HI Kathy! DE COLORES! you will make it when you make it...for now, though, enjoy the Bible Study, and when you are able to come to Ultreya, you'll have LOTS to share with us!

Gina said...

Hi always, thanks for the very insightful comment.

There is a link to the USCCB page beneath the quote that I used in my post that does differentiate between fasting and abstaining, but some people might miss thanks for adding it here.

Angela Messenger said...

In Canada we need only abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but we should practice acts of piety or charity. However, I abstain from meat on Fridays throughout Lent. Which is going to be hard this year because we've instated a fun 'policy' at work called Crock Pot Friday. Every Friday a different person brings the rest of the officemates lunch in a crock pot. Others will bring buns or biscuits or dessert. Unfortunately I am the only Catholic in the bunch so I won't be able to join in the fun and the fesasting (we only had fish chowder once!) for a few weeks. Oh well, that makes it that much more of a penance. I'm up for it! :-)

Angela Messenger said...


That should read feASting!

Gina said...

Angela---what a great way to turn something that could be tough into a fast...fesasting...haha.

Angela Messenger said...

Fiestaing! Well, first the fast, then the feast LOL!

JoeD said...

You may want to look at this:

Pastoral Statement on
Penance and Abstinence

Gina said...

Hi JoeD, are you referring to the 1966 document? if so, here is a link to it: CLICK HERE

Anonymous said...

I was just going to link to the 1966 document as well!
page 4 and 5 are very good. They explain why abstaining from meat on Fridays outside of Lent is not required, but still has first preference. For myself, I don't see why we shouldn't do multiple acts of pennance. While giving up meat is really not a big deal today, it can be combined with other pennance. I like giving up meat throughout the Fridays of the year as pennance for the horror of abortion and chosing another pennance as well. I think the USCCB was wise in abolishing the requirement, as it is not really penitental to many persons. I also like that they continued to stress the preference of still voluntarily continuing the abstinence. The most important aspect is that all Fridays are a day of pennance. (One of my hardest is to give my husband the best day I can, do all the chores for him I can, not nag, offer all my little annonances up, not complain, let him chose all activities for the day etc.). Its a hard pennance! I do like to continue to abstain from meat. I read an article that it helps connect us to the history of the church. God bless!

Gina said...

Robin, you have really captured the spirit of this...I think better than i did in this post. All these comments inspired me to follow this post up. Thanks, all, for the great dialogue!

Anonymous said...

In accordance with the prescriptions of canon 1253, the Canadian Conference of
Catholic Bishops decrees that the days of fast and abstinence in Canada are Ash
Wednesday and Good Friday.

Fridays are days of abstinence, but Catholics can substitute special acts of
charity or piety on this day

* Works of charity.

We may visit a sick person, or help an older person or a
busy parent. We may listen patiently to someone who needs to talk. We may invite
a lonely person to share a meal with us or bring a treat to someone with few
friends. We can give alms to good causes, especially those that bring food to
the hungry. We can reach out to the discouraged, the suffering, the lonely, the
people who feel they are failures or rejected by others.

* Prayer.

We may spend some extra time on Friday praying for peace or for a
family in need. We may pray with an older person or someone who is sick. We may
pray for a person who seems intent on getting in trouble with the law. We may
offer prayers for those who persecute others and for their victims. We may pray
for those who are in the grip of alcohol or drugs, and for those who are
confused. We may pray that more people will offer their talents and their lives
in the service of the Church and of other good causes.

* God’s word.

Each Friday we may spend some time in reading God’s word. We
may read a chapter from the gospel slowly and prayerfully, letting Jesus speak
to us. We may pray a psalm, giving praise to God in the words of the Spirit, and
asking for help for ourselves and for others. We may read another passage from
the scriptures, and let the Spirit of Jesus bring its message alive in our
hearts and in our life.

We may offer any of these good works for our penances on Friday.

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