Friday, February 16, 2018

Lenten Fasting and Abstinence, and Fridays abstinence throughout the year

The Current Law of the Church
Abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of the year (except if there is a Solemnity), which is strictly mandatory during Lent but can be substituted with another penance outside of Lent. [This is mandatory for all 14 and up, until death.]
Fasting, meaning one regular meal and two small snacks, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday – and encouraged on Holy Saturday.  [This is mandatory for all from 18 to 59.]
(Laws of fasting and abstinence bind gravely, so that it is objectively in the realm of mortal sin to break them significantly without a grave reason [like being very ill or having to perform some extreme physical labor, or pregnancy, etc].)

Father Ryan’s Recommendations  (simply some ideas of how to enter more fully into Lent)
Fasting has traditionally been understood to mean only one meal (taken after 3pm), and only one very small snack (like a piece of bread with honey, or a few veggies). Those who are grown and healthy might consider incorporating this practice on even a weekly basis, especially Fridays – however, growing children, the elderly, the sick, pregnant mothers, etc should speak first with their confessor.
Abstinence has traditionally been understood to mean not just avoiding meat, but also products derived from these animals – namely, broth, meat-gravy, dairy, eggs, etc. This is the origin of the “Easter egg,” since eggs were forbidden during Lent. This is also why Catholics were called “Fish eaters” because they couldn’t eat meat or eggs or dairy – fish was a major part of the Lenten diet.
Less than 100 years ago, abstinence was practiced not only on Fridays, but also on Wednesdays and Saturdays – and even “partial abstinence” on every day of Lent (including Sundays), which meant that meat, eggs, or dairy could only be eaten at one meal during the day. The more ancient practice was to fully abstain from meat, eggs, and dairy on every single day of Lent, and to fast every day but Sunday!
For those who are able, it would be good to consider practicing abstinence from meat, eggs, and dairy on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays – especially on the Ember Days of the First Week of Lent. And even to adopt partial abstinence on every day of Lent.


“The observance of Lent is the very badge of the Christian warfare. By it, we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it, we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it, we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God’s glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe.”
(Pope Benedict XIV, in the Constitution Non ambigimus of 10 June 1745)
Let’s review the Canon Law of the Church:
Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. […]
Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and [every day of] 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. […]
Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

It is clear that each and every Friday through the entire year is a day of penance. This is prescribed by the Law of the Church. In the Universal Church, Catholics are obligated to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. The US Bishops have obtained permission for some other form of penance for Fridays outside of Lent. However, we must recall that all US Catholics are obligated to do penance of some sort on every Friday of the year (excepting if it be a solemnity; for example, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart). Penance on Fridays is binding on all Catholics from 14 years until death. There is no upper age limit to abstaining from meat or some other form of penance outside of Lent. However, the two days of fasting (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) bind only from 18 to 60 years – we are encouraged to fast also on Holy Saturday.
But how serious is this obligation? After Vatican II, Pope Paul VI issued a declaration regarding the necessity of penance in the Christian life. Regarding abstinence from meat (or some other penance as determined by the Bishops’ Conference) on every Friday throughout the year, the Pope states, in 1966, “Their substantial observance binds gravely.” (Paenitemini, Norm II.2) This was further clarified by the Vatican, stating that omitting a part of the prescript of penance “which is notable either quantitatively or qualitatively, without an excusing motive” is a grave sin. (Dubium of 31 March 1967).
What does this mean? It means that Catholics are bound under pain of mortal sin to practice penance on every Friday throughout the year, and not just during Lent. The universal way in which Catholics practice this penance is by abstaining from meat. However, in the USA other forms of penance may be substituted, but some sort of penance is mandatory. To omit penance on numerous Fridays outside of Lent (or even one Friday of Lent) without a grave reason would be a mortal sin.
Am I in mortal sin, if I've never heard about this and have never done Friday penance before?! Of course not. If you truly did not know, but generally seek to follow the teachings of the Church, you are not guilty of committing a mortal sin you didn't know about. However, we all have the obligation to learn and spread the fullness of the Catholic teaching, so we must strive from now on to practice Friday penance throughout.
Why haven't I heard about this before? If it really is an issue of mortal sin, why haven't other priests told me about this?! It is sad that there are many teachings which have not been communicated clearly over the past 50 years. Friday penance is a wonderful way to be united with Christ, who died on Friday for our salvation – this is all about imitating Jesus with much love!


Post a Comment

When commenting, please leave a name or pseudonym at the end of your comment so as to facilitate communication and responses.

Comments must be approved by the moderator before being published.