From a reader… already…
Is Friday, December 30, a Meat Friday since it falls within the Octave of Christmas?
It is good to see that someone is planning ahead. As I write we are a fortnight from the day in question. Ergo, none of you will need to be confused about what’s what on 30 December 2016.
Days (other than Sunday) within the Octave of Christmas are not “heavy enough” (as a “solemnity” would be) to “outweigh” the Friday obligation to do some sort of penance as determined by the conferences of bishops.
In the 1962 Missale Romanum they are “II class”, which corresponds to the newer, non-traditional calendar’s “feast”. In the 2001 Missale Romanum they are categorized as second class, as “feasts”, not as solemnities (as they are during the Octave of Easter).
If, however, you are at a parish named “Holy Innocents”, and the Feast of the Holy Innocents falls on the Friday, you might argue that it is greater due to it being the patronal feast of the parish. [UPDATE: For more about England and Wales check Fr. Hunwicke’s post HERE. He mentions exceptions for Boxing Day and, indeed, any Friday in the Christmas Octave.]
Bottom line, the Octave of Christmas does not have the “weight” of the Octave of Easter. Easter Friday outweighs the penance thing, but Christmas Friday does not.
In any event, pay attention to can. 1251.
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.
And, you can ask your parish priest to dispense you or commute your act of penance.
Can. 1245 Without prejudice to the right of diocesan bishops mentioned in can. 87, for a just cause and according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop, a pastor[parish priest] can grant in individual cases a dispensation from the obligation of observing a feast day or a day of penance or can grant a commutation of the obligation into other pious works. A superior of a religious institute or society of apostolic life, if they are clerical and of pontifical right, can also do this in regard to his own subjects and others living in the house day and night.
Members of religious communities and third orders should consult their own regulations and review to whom they turn for dispensations.
You can substitute another form of penance for abstaining from meat. Make it penitential, however. Abstinence from meat has good reasoning behind it. For some, however, there abstinence from other things can be of greater spiritual effect.
That said, it seems to me that fasting and abstinence are pretty good penances/mortifications. Fasting is especially helpful. Cutting back on the quantity of food you eat is something that can be done daily, so long as you do not endanger your health or ability to care for your family.
The Latin Fathers, such as Leo the Great, attached almsgiving to fasting. Fasting wasn’t just about fasting. It was about then giving the money saved to the poor. Picture yourself going to purchase your fresh food each day since there wasn’t refrigeration. Instead of buying the food, you gave the money to the poor. With a little thought, the same could be done now, right?
Thus, though we are always called to perform spiritual and corporal works of mercy, our penances can be more significant if we attach works of mercy to them.