Friday, 24 April 2009

Restoring traditional ascetical practices

American Papist reports that Bishop Conlon of Steubenville has restored Friday abstinence. He reports:

"Okay, technically, Catholics in the US are only allowed to dispense from the year-round Friday abstinence from meat if they substitute a comparable penance for it ... but in practice, the vast majority of Catholics have forgotten to even do this. Bishop R. Daniel Conlon, however, has dispensed with the substituting ... and has instead brought back the simple Friday abstinence from meat in his diocese.

I especially respect that he ties this sacrificial abstinence to witnessing for the unborn and providing them with concrete assistance:

"I am inviting the Catholic people of the Diocese of Steubenville to resume the practice of abstaining from meat on all Fridays throughout the year, but with a twist. I am asking that this be not only a penitential practice but also an experience of prayer and service. This can happen by connecting abstinence with our witness to the sacredness of human life. (In another section he says: Abstinence can also be service if we eat simple meatless food and donate the financial savings to the poor or to pro-life efforts.)

... The resumption of year-round abstinence in the Diocese of Steubenville will begin after this coming Easter, one week after Good Friday (April 17). Although the practice will not be a requirement of law, and failing to keep it will not constitute a sin, I hope every one who is old enough to receive Holy Communion and well enough to come to church will take it seriously. Our parishes, schools and organizations should provide meatless food at their Friday activities.

... the present challenge to the people in our diocese is not really radical. It is a call to what many if not most of us have put aside. And it is a way for us, like the apostles, to give up a little food and help Jesus feed the world."

Bishop Conlon, of course, placed the above mandate within a very well-crafted pastoral letter, which he had read before or at the end of all the Masses in his diocese on the weekend of March 28/29. His catechetical office has also followed-through and provided education materials for school-age children."


Perhaps you could consider asking your own bishop (very politely and respectfully) to consider doing this too. And really, would it be too terrible to make it obligatory again?

PS Now that I've gotten past my email and onto the blogs, I see that I'm on the same page on this as Fr Z , who also advocates going back to the three hour eucharistic fast (which I strongly support). Presumably there is nothing stopping a local bishop from encouraging such a practice. And making Friday abstinence compulsory again is as simple (!) as a decision of our Bishop's Conference...

And by the way, doing some form of penance today (being a Friday in Oz) is still obligatory, so why not start abstaining forthwith!

1 comment:

Terra said...

Yeah, what great news! We need these traditions which make Catholics stand out from the crowd.

Personally, I grew up in a family that maintained Friday abstinence after the requirement was changed. When I was younger, if you said you didn't eat meat on Fridays everyone, Catholic or not, understood what you were talking about. Now, the first assumption is you are some sort of vegetarian.

Friday "penance of your choice" seems to have been interpreted in most cases as "do nothing" This may have been due to lack of understanding when obligatory abstinence, or a misunderstanding similar to the "Latin Mass is forbidden" variety - oh we are not supposed to abstain on Fridays anymore - or just not having anything concrete to do. I could imagine myself on the first Friday saying "what will I do instead?" and getting to the end of the day without having done anything. And then the next Friday. And the next. Until it is forgotten. Abstaining from meat is so concrete and easy to do.


(another) Louise