Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday - Ember Friday and Day of Penance

Today is Friday, and as every Friday in the Catholic church is, it is a day of penance.  It is the day Our Lord and Saviour was crucified so that we may live, and the Catholic Church has always marked this day as such.  This is what the current Cannon law says:
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.
For the United States, the Bishops have ruled as follows:

  • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all 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.
It use to be pretty easy -  no meat.  This was burned into Catholics from the time they were born, and by always abstaining from meat on Friday, they always remembered the significance of this day, which was the purpose of the law.  Then the bishops decided they wanted us to be able to observe this day in our own way, and said you could still abstain from meat if you so choose, or you could do some other penance, or even do a good deed somewhere, etc.  When the Bishops changed the law and made abstinence from meat no longer obligatory (although in essence it is if you don't choose another form of penance), most Catholics promptly forgot about Friday penance and treat it as any other day.  Therefore, most Catholics are in violation of church law.  But when was the last time you heard that preached in Church?  However, if you have read this, and you're a Catholic, you are now responsible.  Knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

That aside, this particular Friday, December 16, 2011, is also Ember Friday, so as I posted earlier this week, this is also a fast day.  Although, I must point out, it is no longer required by the Church.  But still, it is good for your soul if you can do it.

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