From a reader…
I am responsible for a brunch which is served after the Saint Patrick’s Day Mass at the Cathedral in my Archdiocese. This year, Saint Patrick falls on a Friday of Lent. I believe this means I should offer only meatless options, but I keep getting told that there is some type of dispensation for Saint Patrick’s feast.
As far as I can tell, the only dispensation from abstinence on Fridays during Lent is if a Solemnity were to fall on that day. On the General Roman Calendar, Saint Patrick is a Memorial. He gets a Solemnity on some national calendars (Ireland, I think maybe Australia). And I suppose he would also be celebrated as a Solemnity in a diocese where he is the principal patron, but only if that is officially designated.
Neither applies to many places in these United States
Am I missing anything here? I am sure I am not the only person facing this question, and this (I think) misinformation about how to handle it.
This year the feast of St. Patrick lands on a Friday in Lent. Catholics are obliged to do penance on all Fridays of the year, and in particular during Lent.
First, can I just say that the way St. Patrick’s Day, like St. Valentine’s Day, is generally observed is appalling? Hence, I do not think the Church ought to cave in when it comes to how it is generally celebrated. So there.
To your point, these days I am not sure that the laws of Friday or Lenten penance mean anything any more. Of course they do, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that for a very long time now the Church’s pastors have done little or nothing to teach people about the need for penances. Doing penance has fallen into desuetude. Couple that with an anti-nomian spirit sweeping through society and we have a serious problem.
As you point out, the Church’s law requires that Catholic do penance on Fridays that are not liturgical Solemnities. It can be argued that if the Friday is also a feast of a patronal saint of a place, then we can be dispensed from doing penance.
Also, remember that we can substitute one way of doing penance for abstinence from meat on most Fridays. For example, instead of abstaining from eating meat (the common way of doing penance which the Church has designated since days of yore) we can, most Fridays of the year, not use the internet or turn on the television or abstain from other foods or drinks or activities, etc. However, some conferences of bishops, such as in these USA, have determined that in Lent the obligation of doing penance on Fridays is fulfilled by abstinence from meat. That wasn’t relaxed with the substitution option. On Fridays of Lent, in these USA, Catholics are obliged to do their Friday penance by abstaining from meat.
Keeping that in mind, our pastors of our parishes can dispense from penance. So can the local bishop. That brings me to the next point about Friday penance in Lent, which includes abstinence.
You need to check with your local diocese to find out if your local bishop has dispensed his subjects (and others visiting the diocese) from the obligation to do penance on Friday, 17 March, the Feast of St. Patrick by abstaining from meat. Many bishops in these USA do this.
In the decree of dispensation from abstain from meat on that particular Friday in Lent, usually published in the local diocesan newspaper or website, will generally also add language about celebrating the feast “with moderation and temperance”, which all Catholics are sure to observe – no doubt. We are also admonished to perform works of charity, always a good idea. Without question that’s what Catholics will do on Friday 19 March.
There is no blanket dispensation in force automatically for St. Patrick’s day in most places. It must be given by each bishop in his own diocese.