Eat your meat and celebrate!


Today, my family and I traveled up to spend some time during the Christmas Season with the family in Quincy. Because of all of the baggage “presents” for the grandkids, etc. we had to take two cars. Dad, Brody, and I stopped off in St. Louis for a late lunch at Culvers. I always order their fried chicken and did so today, forgetting that it was Friday. (I hate when I do that!) I always try to avoid meat on Friday’s as a form of penance. (sticking with the Code of Canon Law 1250-1252)

I was just taking the exit onto Broadway in Quincy and I realized that today was Friday. “Oh man! I did it again!” I thought to myself, oh well, I will just have to do some other form of penance today. Then I remembered that today was a solemnity, since we are still in the Octave of Christmas and I was not bound to perform acts of penance today!

You might be wondering by now, why I was planning on not eating meat today, or any Friday. Or why, I would want to perform an act of penance today. Weren’t those rules kicked out by the Second Vatican Council? WRONG!

Sadly, many in the church today do not realize that we are still bound by the same laws of abstinence from meat on Fridays, that we were prior to the council. The Code of Canon Law, 1250-1252 states:

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.

What? You mean I was supposed to be abstaining from meat on every Friday of the years till? Why have I never heard this before?

In the United States, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared that “the age of fasting is from the completion of the eighteenth year to the beginning of the sixtieth.” The USCCB also allows the substitution of some other form of penance for abstinence on all of the Fridays of the year, except for those Fridays in Lent. Thus, the rules for fasting and abstinence in the United States are:

    • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all of the Fridays of Lent
    • Every person between the age of 18 and 60 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
    • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year, unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence.

So, because of our stipulations in the United States, we don’t have to just abstain from meat, we can choose some other form of penance. But we ARE BOUND to perform an act of penance EVERY FRIDAY, throughout the WHOLE YEAR!!

**except for the instances listed above in the Code, but also, if the Friday is a Solemnity, which includes any day that falls within the octave of Christmas or Easter!

Our level of teaching about the faith in America and the world as a whole has gone down drastically, from where it needs to be. That is one of the goals that we are facing in this age of the New Evangelization. We constantly have to think of new ways to bring the faith to the people and the people to God. The USCCB has an initiative that you can use to help you to remember to Fast, abstain from meat, or perform some other form of penance on Fridays. Text “FAST”  to 99000, and you will receive a text each Thursday, reminding you for Friday.

I highly encourage you to consider what form of penance you can perform on Fridays and that we are bound to perform them. It’s part of being Catholic. And it’s a great way to get to Heaven! So today, enjoy your meat and celebrate  for Christmas!

Published by Father Corey D. Bruns

I'm a Priest of the Diocese of Owensboro, KY and Parochial Vicar of Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Bowling Green, KY.

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