Meatless Fridays: A Continuing Obligation

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"Meatless Fridays: a continuing obligation" by Birgit Jones (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: Pixabay.com (2016), CC0/PD

Adherence to meatless Fridays continues throughout the calendar year, despite widespread confusion on the subject by many Catholics. 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. 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.” (Luke 5:35)

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.

All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church. (Canon 1250)

While this is specific, an additional canon allows some leeway at the directive of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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. (Canon 1253)

The above canon allows US Catholics an option. If they wish, Catholics are allowed to make a substitution. A penitential or charitable practice of their choice is an additional option. 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 on Fridays 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 becomes 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 teaching opportunity for discussing penitence and unity of family goals. Pregnant or nursing women, the elderly, and those with health issues are also excused but 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 offense 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 a 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.


Copyright 2019 Birgit Jones

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About Author

Birgit finds herself immersed in writing on her blog, Catholic Life In Our Times, where she reflects on current events with a Catholic, pro-life perspective. She also serves as Graphic Editor and Contributing Columnist at Catholic Stand as well as writing for other online Catholic publications.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you for writing about meatless Fridays. I grew up in a Catholic home, and didn’t know anything about it until eight years ago. People my age weren’t taught much about the Faith at all, and I know many other people who didn’t or don’t know about this. We need to know, so thanks.

    • You are welcome. Yes, we all need to know what is required and why it is required. We should continue learning about our beautiful faith throughout our lives. If we truly love Jesus, it is important to find out all we can about Him, His teachings, and the teachings of His Church. God bless.

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