Are Meatless Fridays Still A Thing?
Historically, practicing meatless Fridays is one of the most obviously Catholic social practices. From school menus to restaurant fare, there is an across the board acknowledgment of this devotion dating back hundreds of years. Yet in tandem with the Second Vatican Council and the liberal direction of the 1960s, this practice is no longer widespread. Unfortunately, this presents a weakening of living a Catholic life – of living in the world but not of it. Friday is the day history attributes to the death of Jesus. In keeping with our indisputable gratitude for His sacrifice, for our salvation, we memorialize each and every Friday of the year.
Awareness of this obligation, however, remains somewhat arbitrary. Due to poor catechisis, or perhaps erratic understanding, many Catholics remain unaware of their obligation to observe this day of the week as one marked by penance. Therefore, adherence to meatless Fridays continues throughout the calendar year, despite widespread confusion on the subject by many Catholics.
Experts Address Meatless Fridays
In research for a conclusion on this topic I offer several sources. A canon lawyer friend provides the source for the following:
How many Catholics are genuinely unaware that they are actually required to perform some kind of penance every Friday? Sincere, practicing Catholics who honestly do not know of this obligation are of course not culpable for failing to follow it; but the fact remains that they should be made aware of this disciplinary rule. Canon Law Made Easy
An expert answer found on the EWTN website clarifies. “Traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality” concludes that an integral “part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance…” Our ability to “remain on the narrow path and be saved” depends on this practice. Both Jesus and His disciples implemented this from the earliest times. Luke 5:35 tells us that the disciples practiced this discipline once He departed.
But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then shall they fast in those days.
Canon Law and Meatless Fridays
The Church specifies certain forms of penance. This obligation ensures that the Body of Christ, the Church, practices requirements by Divine Law while also making this action easy to fulfill. The 1983 Code of Canon law shares the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics.
(Canon 1250) All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.
While this is specific, an additional canon allows some leeway at the directive of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
(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.
The above canon allows US Catholics an option. If they wish, Catholics are allowed to make a substitution. Another penitential or charitable practice of their choice is an acceptable substitution. However, the people must perform some form of penance or charity on every Friday of the year. Lenten abstinence, in the form of meatless Fridays, is still obligatory for Catholics in the US. This practice continues around the world.
Meatless Fridays Are Easy
Abstaining from meat throughout the year is a simple practice to follow. While choosing an individual alternative carries the risk of forgetting to perform a penitent act altogether, making every Friday a meatless one quickly becomes a pious habit. Unfortunately, many US Catholics are unaware of this obligation – another side effect of depending on a substitution instead of simply practicing meatless Fridays.
There are many meatless meals from which to choose that are appetizing, affordable, and easy to make. Once this obligation is practiced for a period, it will become second nature to adult and child alike.
Meatless Friday Exceptions
Although younger children, under the age of 14, are not obligated to follow this practice, they easily adapt. This enables a teachable opportunity for discussing penitence and unity of family goals. Pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, and those with health issues are also excused. However, they are certainly welcome to continue the practice if they desire.
The duties and practices we perform are always adaptable to our individual state in life. Therefore, others absolved from the obligation can include “those of unsound mind, the sick, the frail, manual laborers according to need, guests at a meal who cannot excuse themselves without giving great offence or causing enmity and other situations of moral or physical impossibility to observe the penitential discipline”. EWTN
In the spirit of our ardent gratitude and irrefutable need for penance, however, those who are absolved of the obligation can still avail themselves of another form penitence or charity. After all, Jesus’ gift of sacrifice and salvation is a debt we can never hope to repay or deserve.
One of my favorite meatless Friday recipes is ever so easy and family friendly. Stay tuned for more recipes to follow.