"...the answer is YES, we still abstain from meat on Fridays..."
I fear that I may have caused a little confusion, so I think the topic deserves to be revisited. When I wrote the post, I was thinking about two things: first, that someone said to me a few weeks ago that Catholics don't fast on Fridays anymore; and second, a section I read in Matthew Kelly's book Rediscover Catholicism regarding Minimalism, or doing the very least you can get away with, being an M.O. our culture.
Since you are not psychic, though, you would have no idea that I was trying to reflect these two things in my previous post. Thus my "answer" really should have read, "YES, we SHOULD still abstain from meat on Fridays," with a little more explanation than I offered.
For the rest of this post, I'd like to give a shout out to all my commenters--Fr. Bill Loveless, JoeD and RobinMarieTherese--for offering the rest of the explanation. It's truly a joint effort, this whole blogging thing!
I also got a great suggestion (thanks, JoeD) to read the Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence (click HERE to read it), a 1966 document by the NCCB. Under the heading Christ Died for Our Salvation on Friday we read the following:
Gratefully remembering this [that Christ died for our salvation on Friday], 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. (pp 18.)
and also this:
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. (pp 20.)
Hence the option, and the concept of additional acts of penance in combination with abstaining from meat, for which Robin provided some wonderful insights and examples.
I also had a really good conversation just this morning with my dear friend Nancy, who provided some additional insight into the topic. She said, "See, I think what people don't understand any longer is that eating meat on Friday was a sin, not because you ate meat on Friday, but because you were DISOBEYING THE CHURCH, which is the sin." (Recall from my previous post that Canon Law does state that Fridays are a day of abstinence, to be further defined by the Bishops Councils.)
So will this follow up piece clarify everything, or open another can of worms? Either way, keep the comments coming!
P.S. Angela: FIESTAINING...what a concept! heehee