Lent is one of my favorite times of the year. Yes, it’s a time to purge ourselves and get closer to Christ, renounce our sins, and most of all, await Easter Sunday after experiencing Good Friday. There is nothing more positive that shows a great beginning to a troubling journey. But did you know that the absence of meat on Friday’s is not only during Lent?
But I’ll be honest about something, I’m still learning the rich and deep aspects of our Faith everyday. Also, while learning some traditions that may have been lost or forgotten, I am stumbling on them and find that they enrich my week, months, and years.
One of the traditions that I have come across not too long ago was the fasting from meat on Fridays. One would think that this was common knowledge, but no where was this discussed or even talked about. Far as I knew, we had to fast on Fridays during Lent only.
Well according to Code of Canon Law:
Days of Penance
Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.
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.
Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.
Of course we all sit down with a cup of tea and read cannon law right before bed…right? (Well….At least I don’t). I’m guessing that this is not well known because it is widely believed that the fast requirement was removed. This would explain why I never heard of it growing up, and those whom I talked to didn’t know of it.
So what if you’re not a big meat eater and you’re a vegetarian?
Well, then it wouldn’t be that much of a hardship to fast from meat on Friday for you. There has to be another way for you to offer up penance. That is where I believe the confusion began. We can abstain from meat on Fridays or we can offer up a suitable penance. This, I believe has been interpreted that we don’t have to fast from meat (or do a form of penance) and the Bishops has removed that requirement from us.
That is simply not the case. Every Friday is a like a little good Friday for us, and every Sunday is like a little Easter.
Knowledge changes us, and this has changed me and my family throughout the year. We are more aware and mindful of our Friday fast from meat. Now I will admit that in the beginning this was a huge challenge, because there are times where I’m just craving a burger and it happens to be a Friday, but I’ve been okay with that sacrifice.
Also, know that I know this, there is no going back to our old ways of doing things.