Friday, May 13, 2011

English & Welsh bishops restore Friday penace of abstaining from meat

In their Spring Meeting, the Bishops of England & Wales have decided that the current norms are too woolly. Leaving it up to the individual just does not work. We need (a) to have a clear directive and (b) to be in tune with the universal practice of the Church. Well, that's my take on it. So, here's the statement from the Bishops' Media Office under the heading Catholic Witness – Friday Penance with thanks to Peter Jennings:
By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in his death on the cross. We do so in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s passion; in fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; in alms-giving, by demonstrating our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need. All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness.

Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord. The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference.

The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.

Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance.

The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat.

Those who cannot or choose not to eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake.

This is to come into effect from Friday 16 September 2011 when we will mark the anniversary of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom.

Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, who gave up his very life for our salvation.
Now, how's about giving us our Holydays of Obligation back? :)


  1. Let's do the same in the United States!

  2. According to Anna Arco
    the bishops have been sent home to reflect on the idea of restoring Epiphany and Ascension to their proper days.
    There is reason for hope.

  3. Father,

    This is a really important move and an important post, but I have to say, the picture you posted LEPT out at me.

    I posted about it at my blog. Don't want to sully yours with my insanity.
    The Fish of Mary?

    Again, not trying to detract from the importance of your post. Just wanted to let you know.

  4. I once lunched on a Friday with a priest who chose fish, adding with some embarrassment: "It's not because it's Friday." Which was quite surreal as I had chosen fish precisely because it was Friday.
    The 'reintroduction' of the abstinence rule is a step in the right direction and I'm glad to see it put into context, which I hope will be widely explained, particularly in schools.
    If it morphs into an act of self-denial to show solidarity with the poor and dispossessed then the penitential point is lost.
    Penance has to be explained as an expression of remorse for sins against God; not very fashionable these days. But presented properly it must automatically lead on to discussion of the nature of sin and the need for regular Confession and absolution.
    It would be jolly good to see the reintroduction of the overnight/three-hour fast before Holy Communion.
    So many of us long for the re-establishment of our lost Holy Days of Obligation, but I fear that in E&W it's currently a lost cause.

  5. Does this apply to visitors to Englnd and Wales also?


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