Practicing Catholics will today have kept six meatless Fridays (well, five this year if you indulged on the Solemnity of the Annunciation). If we count Good Friday next week and Ash Wednesday five weeks ago, we’re practically “done” with all the officially designated days of abstinence in 2022 in the United States. Just one more Friday to get through…
…or maybe not?
Having learned something of the traditional Catholic discipline of abstinence over these past six Fridays, let me propose something: we keep to it! We honor the discipline in our heart and try to keep it all the year.
Not that long ago (at least in the life of the Church), Friday abstinence was a normal thing for Catholics. Catholics “giving up” meat on Fridays was the norm, not the exception.
In 1966, the Catholic bishops of the United States abrogated the formal obligation of abstinence on Fridays outside of Lent. Their “pastoral statement“ reminded Catholics that Friday, the day that commemorates the Lord’s Passion, remained a day of penitential observance (no. 18). The bishops wrote that Catholics should deepen their spirit of renunciation and penance and, though other penitential acts could substitute for abstinence from meat, the latter did retain pride of place (no. 24).
Unfortunately, what most Catholics in the United States heard was “pass the hamburgers!” Lou Groen’s 1963 experiment that got Filet-o-Fish onto the McDonald’s menu would soon be undercut.
The logic of the bishops was that mature adult Catholics would understand and recognize the need for penance as a permanent feature in the Christian life and adapt the form that was their “most effective means of practicing penance” (no. 19). However laudatory in principle that idea might have been, retrospect strongly suggests it was, at best, naïve. Instead of letting “a thousand penitential flowers bloom,” penance withered away.
(If you doubt that, think back to the confessional lines on a typical Saturday afternoon and evening—yes, Virginia, many parishes had an hour of Saturday night confessions years before there were Saturday night vigil Masses—and compare them to today.)
After 56 years, the results are in and, if “by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20), the bishops’ 1966 penitential tree hasn’t borne much. Like the barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9), there seems to be good reason to cut it down and clear the ground.
The Bishops of England and Wales have already done that. Unlike their American brothers, they attempted, in 1985, to reemphasize the need for real Friday penance. When that admonition of “do some kind of penance or abstain from meat” also withered on the vine, the English and Welsh bishops decided to act. As of September 2011, mandatory abstinence was restored as the norm for all Fridays.
Not being sanguine about the willingness of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to act collectively in a way that some might imagine questioning a “post-Vatican II development”—regardless of the evidence for the alleged “development’s” failure—there is an alternative: individual bishops, or at least the bishops of ecclesiastical provinces, might reinstate mandatory Friday abstinence….
The above comes from an April 8 posting in Crisis Magazine.
Let’s not. I like having a hamburger or meat pizza when I go out to eat. And really, when clergy are sex abusers and defying doctrine you think this is a priority?
Well, “not”, you really got us this time! All us clergy are guilty? Do you think all Black people are… Well, I can’t type that. It would be racist.
memo to “not” :
We are supposed to give up meat every Friday or replace it with a similar or more meaningful sacrifice.
You don’t do this?
My bishop tried to reinstate ember days. Huge failure. If he tried to impose meatless Fridays all year round, I’d call him out for not suppressing the TLM like he’s supposed to be doing. I don’t understand why people want to go backwards.
Backwards? Of course not. Offering a penance to God, at any time, in any era, is certainly not backwards. Jesus lived over two thousand years ago. Was He backwards simply because of the time in which He lived? Too many people today, are extremely impressed with science and modernism– and are too quick to naively throw out our tremendous heritage.
Jesus said nothing about eating fish on fridays. Search the Gospels it ain’t there.
ain’t there– I am objecting to the ignorant use of the term, “backwards.” Just because something worthwhile was done a long time ago, then abolished, does not mean it was “backwards.” Jesus was a devout Jew, keeping the daily Jewish laws, and the kosher laws, all from the Bible. Later, the Jewish followers of Jesus accepted Gentiles into their group, and decided it was not necessary for new converts to first become a Jew, observing all of these laws. Just because Pope St. Paul VI decided to abolish Friday abstinence, does not mean it is a “backwards” religious practice.
Did Jesus say “Search Google”?
You do not have to eat fish. You have to abstain from meat.
And they said to him, “The disciples of John fast often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.” Jesus answered them, “Can you make the wedding guests* fast while the bridegroom is with them?
But the days will come, and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.”
And neither are the words Holy Trinity …
Maybe the word Trinity isn’t there but there are very clear references to the Father Son and Holy Spirit. We don’t baptize in the name of Jesus or John the Baptist. We make disciples and baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
10 years ago the US Bishops asked us to offer meatless Fridays for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty.
How did that turn out?
How would I know?
So penance has no value?
no, i don’t. the notion that eating lobster thermidor with drawn butter can literally be taken to be penitential, while settling for one Big Mac cannot, is foolishness.
i agree with “not”: we have bigger fish to fry. [pun intentional]
Eating meat on Friday will once again be same moral evil as abortion and murder? Do you think by scaring people with the eternal fires of hell they that the pews will be filled again? The clergy molest little children while bishops and cardinals knowingly do not report it and cover it up. They are still allowed to be priests, bishops, and cardinals — no excommunication for them, no lines outside the confessional for them. And they were all trained in the Pre-Vatican II seminaries. This is exactly the culture of moral absurdity that has lost the abortion fight for the church. Everything, including eating meat on Friday or missing Mass once in a while, cannot be equally intrinsically evil and mortally sinful. This is a well-meaning pious idea for a penance, but it cannot be mandated again without the church becoming more and more irrelevant to young people, and even us Pre-Vatican II Catholics who never understood the logic of those church laws to begin with.
It never was.
How about as a compromise saying that people may choose any day of the week to be meatless, as long as it is done once a week. I agree that Fridays are a hardship because it’s the start of the weekend and people often go out to eat on Friday nights and like to enjoy a tasty steak dinner after working hard all week. And what about those going on dates? Let people go meatless on Tuesdays or whenever they choose instead of saying it has to be on Friday. And if you live far from the coast, it’s hard to get fresh, quality seafood. Let’s not have the church act with coastal or island privilege in this. England reinstated the fish on Friday thing? Well, England is an island, so everyone has easy access to fresh fish. But for people in America’s heartland it’s not so easy. No coastal privilege, please.
I tend to agree. I wish there were some way (perhaps a personal private “contract” that once a week, preferably on Friday, that the person agrees to do something to especially remember the passion. Maybe it means a commitment to skip lunch and go to Mass instead. Could be done any day of the week but would be welcome on Fridays.
Don’t you think that your ideas are way off, way too worldly? Vegetarian/vegan meals are very easy to fix, anywhere! Every world cuisine is easily adaptable to be vegetarian/vegan! And if you socialize with lots of Catholic family and friends, everyone will be observing the same rules. If Catholics are mandated to do year-round Friday abstinence, they all will do it together. Just like kosher Jews, or Muslims with their special porkless diets. Right now, the Muslims are all observing their month-long Ramadan fast, worldwide.
To my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, you’re welcome to join the 23 other Catholic Churches (Eastern Catholic Churches) who have Friday abstinence year round (except the Fridays following major holy days/feasts). We’ve had the benefits of that discipline continually and even have Wednesday abstinence during Lent (Great Fast) and Advent (Philip’s Fast). Even if not obligatory, you’re welcome to choose those practices voluntarily. You might find it spiritually beneficial. Give it a try.
Deacon Anderson, I say the Rosary of course as a Latin Rite Catholic, but my question is: do you know if a Latin Rite Catholic gets any indulgences for saying the Jesus Prayer? I should think so as some Latin Rite priests teach the Jesus Prayer in its various forms. I often use it in my car instead of a Rosary because it seems to be much safer saying it than trying to meditate on the Rosary mysteries while driving. I keep both Rosaries and Jesus Prayer ropes in my car and use the Rosary while parked or for saying when walking in parks.
Dear Anne TE, I know from reading your posts that you are a faithful Catholic and a polite and well-intentioned woman. Could I offer a thought for your consideration?
Driving an auto theses days needs one’s full attention. [After all, driving = putting TONS of metal into motion.] Especially true if you live in California or another large, traffic-dense area.
Praying while driving diverts one’s mental attention from the main task–DRIVING SAFELY–unless the “praying” is no more than mantra repeating.
Certainly, praying with full SELF-INVOLVEMENT is essential to maintaining an interior spiritual life. But full attention to driving these days, it seems to me, is required to meet the moral demands of keeping oneself’ safe and avoiding risk of harm to others. I suggest that multi-task driving sacrifices one imperative or the other.
Wouldn’t it be better to select a prayer time which doesn’t diminish either moral imperative?
You are right, but I have only done it recently in lesser traffic and keep it on my lap mainly instead of in my hand. Nevertheless, it is much safer to do when parked — especially when waiting for someone.
As far as meat on Fridays, my husband and I have given it up for years. It is easy to order fish or a vegetarian dish at restaurants, but a simple dish as one person already mentioned — fish, rice or potatoes and vegetables for one. Many people who work eat out anyway during the week, and fish is good for the brain.
Anne, indulgences are offered and promulgated (if those are the correct terms) by bishops. And, we Eastern Catholics aren’t really into indulgences, so you would need to see if a Latin Church bishop issued anything about such. I hope that helps.
—The distribution of the merits contained in the treasury of the Church is an exercise of authority (potestas jurisdictionis), not of the power conferred by Holy orders (potestas ordinis). Hence the pope, as supreme head of the Church on earth, can grant all kinds of indulgences to any and all of the faithful; and he alone can grant plenary indulgences. The power of the bishop, previously unrestricted, was limited by Innocent III (1215) to the granting of one year’s indulgence at the dedication of a church and of forty days on other occasions. Leo XIII (Rescript of July 4, 1899) authorized the archbishops of South America to grant eighty days (Acta S. Sedis, XXXI, 758). Pius X (August 28, 1903) allowed cardinals in their titular churches and dioceses to grant 200 days; archbishops, 100; bishops, 50. These indulgences are not applicable to the souls departed. They can be gained by persons not belonging to the diocese, but temporarily within its limits; and by the subjects of the granting bishop, whether these are within the diocese or outside—except when the indulgence is local. Priests, vicars-general, abbots, and generals of religious orders cannot grant indulgences unless specially authorized to do so. On the other hand, the pope can empower a cleric who is not a priest to give an indulgence (St. Thomas, “Quodlib.”, II, q. viii, a. 16).
Not to get too far off the subject of meatless Fridays, thank you two for your posts, but the type of indulgences I was referring to are those everyday prayers for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. I do have “The Handbook of Indulgences norms and grants” that was first published in 1991 by the Catholic Book Publishing company and am told it is still in effect and still sold in most Catholic bookstores. There have been a few minor changes in the revised version, but I wanted to know what type of prayers the Eastern rites use for the Holy Souls.
The Jesus Prayer is not in the Manual of Indulgences.
Yes you can do those practices voluntarily. I do not think we are supposed to join the particular churches. You probably meant join with? I have some icons but I always feel a little weird using them but Catholics have always used Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
I use a daily devotional from a Benedictine monk from Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery which has as its charism praying for the joining of the Easter and Western Churches so he does devotions and prayers from both but I do not know if lay Catholics are supposed to do that.
There is one bishop in the US that is bi-ritual. I think Bishops are forbidden to be bi-ritual but since he was before he became bishop I guess that makes it OK?
I was at a parish in SF once where a bi-ritual priest said Mass. They announced gratitude for him coming over in a pinch. It was on the same street as Star of the Sea and I think it might have been St. Monica’s.
Rambling, I’ll try some short, simple, maybe even simplified, answers.
By “join,” if you mean attend, any Catholic is welcome at any Catholic Church, even registering as a parishioner. If you mean “join” as in changing to another Catholic Church, that’s a different story. That requires the permission of the bishops involved and should not be undertaken lightly.
Any Catholic can pray any Catholic devotion. Adoration is a favorite Latin devotion of mine. Icons and the Jesus Prayer are favorites of many Roman Catholics.
Many priests are bi-ritual (that is, have faculties to serve in two of the Catholic Churches). Fr. Mitch Pacwa SJ is one many may know.
Some of our Eastern priests regularly serve at Latin parishes, schools and hospitals and some Latin priests regularly serve at Eastern parishes.
The largest Byzantine Divine Liturgy (Mass) in the U.S. was celebrated by a Roman Catholic bishop who was bi-ritual. Archbishop Fulton Sheen presided at an outdoor Divine Liturgy with about 85,000 worshipers.
I hope that helps.
Yes thank you!
Let’s make it 24 other Catholic Churches and add Tridentine Catholics. Let the V2 Catholics continue the watered down ways and stop the restrictions on Traditional Catholics who choose not to eat meat on Fridays.
There are no restrictions on any Catholics of any Rite from abstaining from meat on Fridays. Don’t play victim. I think the bigger point here is that those who wouldn’t ordinarily eat meat on Fridays anyway (vegetarians and DASH dieters come to mind), could be encouraged to find another observance that has the same effect, and those who otherwise would have meat not use laws of abstinence to indulge in delicacies like, as another commenter said, lobster thermadour with drawn butter. It’s not about you or Your rejection of Vatican II or your attempt to cling to the prior form of the Latin Rite Mass.
If I understand what you mean, you think that abstaining from meat on Fridays throughout the year is not a Church law. It is.
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.
In the US, the Episcopal Conference said though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.
The whole thing is here: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year-and-calendar/lent/us-bishops-pastoral-statement-on-penance-and-abstinence
boy …. bishops blew it big time
years and years ago!!!
hard to put the genie back in the bottle.
If I were a genie these days I’d want to go back into the safety of that bottle! Heh heh.
I think that the Catholic Church would be much stronger, spiritually, with mandatory spiritual practices, not merely individual decisions to do penance. I think that Friday abstinence should never have been abolished. I also think the Eucharistic Fast should never have been lessened. If Catholics all did something like the First Five Saturdays and said a Rosary daily, as Our Lady of Fatima requested, many wonderful graces and great miracles might occur. Maybe abortion would end! Maybe sexual sins would greatly be reduced, and marriage and family life would bloom. Maybe religious and priestly vocations would double. Maybe Putin would get converted by Our Lady, and stop the war with Ukraine.
Might, maybe, maybe, maybe… point is you don’t know. You’re guessing. Don’t force others to do something based only on your guess about what might or maybe happen.
To “guessing”– Where is your Faith? We live by Faith, not by certainty of achieving all that we desire. We are not God. We are only small human beings, mortal creatures. We do not know the plans of God. Prayer and penance are very important. It is very important for all of us to pray to God each day, pray for the needs of ourselves, our families and loved ones, our Church, the nation, and the world. Pray for an end to abortion, pray for an end to the war in Ukraine. Etc. And listen to Our Lady of Fatima, who requested the Rosary, Five First Saturdays, daily acts of penance, etc. All is in God’s hands. We must place our prayers in His loving hands, knowing He will do what is best for us all.
People of Faith are always eager to do religious devotions, and pray, fast, give alms, and do all they can, especially for the sick, the wounded, suffering, and dying — and for all those mourning terrible tragedies. For example– many Catholic clerics and laymen are fasting, praying, and doing all they can, for the poor Ukrainian refugees, and for an end to the war. Nobody forces anything on people of Faith. Their loving hearts are so eager to serve God, and help suffering mankind. Just like Christ.
Yeah if this is done then the Lenten fast would have to be reinstated to abstinence from meat every day and fasting every day to make Lent more different from the rest of the year. No thank you. Don’t give an inch on this.
It was Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent, not everyday.
Catholics were manual laborers back then.
No bishop is going to tell me I can’t have meat on Friday.
When it was a mortal sin to eat meat on Friday, that was the mortal sin. The defiance of the authority of the Church.
It is a mortal sin on Fridays of Lent and needs to be confessed before receiving Communion.
Of course, there are exceptions if you actually forget it is Friday and eat meat. In that case one can give up meat the rest of the day and something else one would enjoy having, such as salt in a dish. The whole idea is to train one’s body and soul to do things in moderation and thus avoid the serious sins. If one can say “no” to lawful things, it becomes much easier to say “no” to sinful things.
By “lawful things” in my fourth line, I meant those things which are normally all right for us to do or eat.
No bishop, you’re right, it appears you want no bishop (a successor to an apostle). The Bible says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17 Enjoy your Good Friday barbequed steak and your own “church.” It is a free country and you’re free to start the First Church of No Bishop. And, you get to be the head of that group, even if only a group of one. That said, you’re always welcome back to the Catholic Church, Jesus’ Church.
thumbs up if you do meatless Fridays all year.
heaven vs. hamburger
Depends, are we talking McDonalds, Carl’s Jr., In-N-Out, Five Guys, Jack in the Box, Burger King, Wendy’s, Fatburger, Freddy’s, Red Robin or Smash Burger?
Some of those are heavenly. Mmmmmmmmmm
Junk food. Very bad for you. Can’t do better than that? And how about your spiritual life, with the Lord?
I fondly remember the term “mortification” from my grade school Catholic education many decades ago. We were called upon to mortify the flesh in order to gain better control of our unruly. passions. I know I am dating myself, but that advice is still good. We are free to “offer it up” and to practice mortification of the flesh any time we wish. Peace to all.
It’s ez for me as I haven’t eaten meat since 2000l; I’m sure I’m not alone. However, I do give up a couple favorites every Friday: sugar and wheat.
Since my conversion 20 years ago I have abstained every Friday. It’s a discipline which I value. Do I wish more Catholics observed this practice, of course, but it needs to be seen as a practice that will strengthen an individual’s relationship with Christ. Don’t force the faithful to obey, but encourage it through our examples.
The Church has a problem with getting Catholics to go to Mass every Sunday. We lose 80% of young people. You think meatless Fridays is a concern? Mass attendance should be the priority.
If young people can’t discipline themselves, why expect them to go to mass?
I am an animal lover, and have been a vegetarian for many decades! I, too, remember priests and nuns talking about the necessity of mortification of the flesh, as a practical means to bring your flesh and your thoughts and emotions under control, by the grace of God. Very important, to lead a good life, close to Christ! Priests stopped giving those kinds of sermons after Vatican II. I also preferred the pre-Conciliar good preparation for proper reception of Holy Communion. I liked the longer Eucharistic fasts required– and everyone went to Confession on Sat. afternoons. You shouldn’t get real “overly-perfectionist” with yourself, that’s unhealthy. But you do need a good and decent spiritual regimen, or you won’t get very far, and Heaven is definitely worth it! I choose Christ! Not the world! Today, some priests do say, “even if you are a poor student, you can give up the cost of a hamburger, or a pizza, on a Friday night, as a small mortification, once a week, and give the money to the poor.” If we think of skipping a small but regular indulgence, and give the money to the poor– that could be a worthy sacrifice. Sacrifice a regular Starbuck’s latte, or whatever. We used to also use the sacrifice beads of St. Therese, the Little Flower, on which you count off your daily sacrifices that you offer– there are ten sacrifice beads– they represent acts of love, offered to God.
I just read that a group of about 150 parishioners at a Toronto Catholic church, dedicated themselves to the recent 40 Days For Life Campaign. Led by a married lady with three children, who is also a registered nurse, they all decided to fast on bread and water, during the Campaign. They also teamed up with the Sisters of Life, a religious order of nuns whose charism is Pro Life. They have verified that six preborn babies were saved, in this year’s Toronto 40 Days For Life Campaign. Wonderful.
Do we have any proof that fasting increases the efficacy of prayer? Like the above. Did abortion end because fasting was added to the prayers? For that matter did abortion end because of the prayers? And when the unborn are referred to as “saved”, how can anyone be sure that the pregnant people didn’t return on another day to have an abortion anyway?
We Christians must go on Faith alone, as is stated in our religion. No one can see God. We walk by Faith!
No, we go by faith and reason. Catholics are not sola fides Protestants.
Blind faith is not Catholic faith.
Yes, of course, faith and reason– but we must be humble, as God is in charge. You never know the outcomes of things you pray for– you must leave that up to God.
The devil tells you not to pray, not to fast…they do not work.
Faithful people know that the Lord hears every prayer and that the sacrifices we make are united with His Sacrifice on the Cross.
prayer AND penance,
always a good idea