ASK FATHER: Dispensation for the 4th of July?

From a reader…

The Fourth of July is on a Friday this year. I’ve been told that there used to be a dispensation from the requirement to abstain from meat on a Friday 4th. Is that true?

It would be easy to individually keep the penance, but what if you are inviting guests over (some Catholics who don’t eat meat on Friday, some Catholics who do, plus the non-Catholics)? Should one provide meat at the barbecue in this case to accommodate everyone? If so, should we warn our non-meat-eating-on-Friday friends that there will indeed be meat served?

I have not heard of a widespread dispensation from Friday abstinence for 4 July, but there once may have been one.  There was, I think, a dispensation given for the Friday after Thanksgiving, presumably for leftover turkey.

The dispensing authority is in the hands of the diocesan bishop.  A parish pastor can dispense on an individual basis for a good reason, but he can’t dispense the whole parish.

Remember that the US Bishops have permitted the faithful to substitute another penance for abstinence on Fridays.

NB: Penance is still REQUIRED on Fridays, either abstinence or some other penance. One could legitimately, without a dispensation, substitute another penance on Friday, 4 July, such as an additional rosary, stations of the Cross, abstinence from some other food or drink. For many, abstaining from coffee, or salt, or dessert is more difficult than abstaining from meat.

Listening to mainstream media news coverage of politicians that day would not be penitential because, though it would be painful, the purpose of penance is to bring us closer to Christ, not froth at the mouth in anger.  Ditto for reading the National Schismatic Reporter.

Regarding hosting a party…

I think when one hosts a party, one has a certain latitude to serve what one wishes. One should, of course, let one’s guests know at the time of the invitation, especially if the menu is to be outside of the norm: “Please come over to our home on Friday. We’ll be grilling some salmon!” or “I’d like to invite you over to our place this Friday for an all-mushroom extravaganza!” or “I hope you can make our stewed okra fiesta this Friday evening!” “We slaughtered Petey, the family hog, and will be roasting him this Friday. If you’d like to bring a side dish to pass around, come on over!”

Reasonable accommodations should of course be made, especially if one knows one’s guests well enough to know their dietary restrictions. Hosts should also be nonplussed if guests (especially those with pickier appetites) ask questions: “I’d like to bring along some wine. What’s on the menu so I can bring something appropriate?” or “I’d love to come. I hate to put you out, but I have a severe allergy to quail tongues.”

One need not justify one’s serving choices to one’s guests. If one’s fellow parishioners want to presume the worst and gossip (“Maureen’s serving sliced bread on the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist? I knew she had no respect for our ancient traditions!”) that’s on their heads.

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  1. APX says:

    Also, l will add, if one does not plan in eating meat on July 4th, one is not obligated to provide meat to those who do eat meat on Fridays. Ask a Mormon about whether or not they serve coffee to their coffee-drinking relatives. The answer will be no. I wasn’t even allowed a cup of coffee in a Mormon’s car, let alone have them serve me coffee. Furthermore, there is a Mormon town not far from where I live. They do not sell regular coffee, only decaf and have a bylaw prohibiting alcohol. No accommodations for non-Mormons. Just sayin’…

  2. CruceSignati says:

    “We slaughtered Petey, the family hog, and will be roasting him this Friday. If you’d like to bring a side dish to pass around, come on over!”

    I just about fell off my chair laughing. Thank heavens no one else is in the house now!

  3. JonPatrick says:

    If barbecuing is appropriate for the feast of St. Lawrence, then why wouldn’t sliced bread be appropriate for the beheading of St. John the Baptist? I sense an inconsistency here :)

  4. Suzanne Carl says:

    Poor Petey. Fooled into thinking he was living with a Muslim family all those years, only to find that he is going to be slaughtered by the family he loves. Of course, all will be forgiven if the family has a good smoker.

  5. Suzanne Carl says:

    Sorry, should have made it clear that Petey, being a pig and all, couldn’t discern the difference between a chapel veil and a hijab.

  6. Pnkn says:

    I would be more than willing to bet that Petey can tell the difference between a chapel veil and an hijab. Pigs are smart.

  7. Suburbanbanshee says:

    In the Zendan-American community, using a whole loaf of bread on the feast of St. John the Baptist’s beheading is of course symbolic of the man’s whole head. “Use your loaf,” as they say in the UK. Naturally these loaves have to be pretty small, though, to prevent an unmannerly ripping apart of the loaf which would be more symbolic of St. Ignatius being torn by wild beasts. I suppose small bite-sized loaves, or even Twinkies for the long-headed, would represent the Baptist’s commitment to “I must diminish.”

    On the other head, a knife, slicing machine, or mandoline are indeed symbolic of the beheading itself, and therefore are considered fittingly traditional elsewhere. I believe it was the Italians who invented the festal use of the Salome sandwich.

  8. rcg says:

    Was ate a children’s party once and a neighbour had a Vietnamese pig. I was admiring the animal in the back garden and asked how large they let it get before slaughtering it. That is when I discovered people in the west keep them as pets.

  9. BLB Oregon says:

    The same with ducks–buy one for a meal, and the “farmer” might go a bit nuts. (Ask Jacques Pepin about that.)

    We are so used to tailoring our menus to vegetarians and even vegans that it is no problem to offer a menu that allows some to abstain from meat if they like. As for those who are dispensed of abstinence in favor of almsgiving–well, if you’re going to have some big meaty pork ribs, the poor had better be feeling the love in a big way from you on that Friday, don’t you think? ;)

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