ASK FATHER: Eating meat on Friday in the Octave of Easter

Let’s get out in front of this before the calendar clicks over to Friday

From a reader…


My wife and I recently returned to the traditional friday abstinence from meat year round.

Traditionally, would the friday abstinence from meat also apply during fridays of the whole easter season?

What about just the octave?

Congratulations for wanting to adhere to the traditional practices.  Kudos.

You’ve asked a good question.

Pay attention, in the Latin Church, 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.

The days of the Octave of Easter are celebrated as Solemnities (in the Novus Ordo calendar).    Therefore, there is no obligation for the Friday penance on this Friday.

The other Fridays of Eastertide are not Solemnities.

This is how the 1983 Code of Canon Law handles Friday in the Octave of Easter, and this applies also to those who prefer the Extraordinary Form (which did not have “Solemnities”).  BTW… this does not apply to the Octave of Christmas, for those days of the Octave are not counted as “Solemnities” as are those of the Easter Octave.

NB: As far as other Fridays are concerned, outside the Octave of Easter or some other Solemnity, 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.

Abstinence from meat has good reasoning behind it. For some, however, there abstinence from other things can be of greater spiritual effect.

Certainly you would never abstain from reading this blog… or ordering…


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10 Responses to ASK FATHER: Eating meat on Friday in the Octave of Easter

  1. ce lathrop says:

    I think in Egeria’s journal, she mentions the practice in Jerusalem of lifting all fasting and abstinences between Pascha and Pentecost. A few Orthodox do this still.

  2. Ariseyedead says:

    Father Z does an excellent job of summarizing the current legislation for abstinence that applies to all Latin Rite Catholics. However, the questioner was asking about the “traditional” practice. I believe that the traditional practice would be for abstinence from meat on Easter Friday (during the octave) as well as the other Fridays of the Easter season. Happy Easter to all!!

    [People can eat what they want to eat when they want to eat it on any day. However, there is no obligation under the present law, and it is the present law that counts. If they want to follow a practice before the 1983 Code, let them.]

  3. wolfeken says:

    “This is how the 1983 Code of Canon Law handles Friday in the Octave of Easter, and this applies also to those who prefer the Extraordinary Form (which did not have ‘Solemnities’).”

    While true, it should also be noted that in 1962, the year of the Roman missal used today for the so-called extraordinary form, the discipline in place for Easter Friday was abstinence from meat, as today is not a day of precept (aka holy day of obligation).

    The law is the law today, and one can attend the novus ordo, feast for 38 of the 40 days in Lent and have a steak today. But a more complete answer to the question of Friday abstinence on Easter Friday (especially when invoking the TLM) should at least reference what the discipline in place was in 1962. It was abstinence from meat on Easter Friday.

    [Grown ups, with free will, can do what they want. The obligation to abstain from meat on Friday of the Easter Octave does not pertain today under the present Code. If you don’t like that, fine. Abstain. If people choose to follow the older practice today, fine. However, the Church’s law does not oblige them too today.]

  4. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    Interesting what a couple of readers say about the 1962 fasting discipline. I wonder when this change occurred. In the middle ages there was no fast or abstinence, if a festive day ranked as Totum Duplex fell on a penitential day like Friday. Medieval Catholics would have been shocked to hear of someone thinking it a good deed to fast on a Totum Duplex feast, whatever day of the week it fell on.

    Thus the famous story of St. Francis of Assisi sternly correcting a friar who referred to Chistmas as “Friday,” during a year in which it fell on that day of the week. “I want everyone to feast on Christmas, even the animals.” And, in the middle ages, the Octave Days of Easter were among the highest ranked of all Totum Duplex feasts. Ergo, no abstinence or fast.

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  6. wolfeken says:

    Good question on the origins; I am not entirely sure. On the justification, it is connected to the calendar that predated the Pius XII (Archbishop Bugnini) reforms of the liturgical calendar. Before the four-class system (first class, second class, third class and fourth class), Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday each carried the rank of double of the first class. Easter Wednesday, Easter Thursday, Easter Friday and Easter Saturday, on the other hand, carried the rank of semidouble. Thus, abstinence on Easter Friday without conflict. A case like the one we are discussing shows how little thought was put into the mid-20th century reforms.

  7. Simon_GNR says:

    Thanks for this post Fr Z. Without it I wouldn’t have had the delicious steak and kidney pudding I’ve enjoyed for dinner this evening. As you no doubt know, in England we are under an obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays, following a decision by the local Bishops’ Conference a few years ago to reintroduce this rule.

  8. Precentrix says:

    Just to confuse me, though, the Easter Octave in the Novus Ordo only seems to mark the first couple of days as solemnities, and the others (including Friday) as mere feasts. Given that in this part of the world, Friday abstinence *is* compulsory on Fridays outside of Lent (unlike in the USofA), one may therefore be inclined to think that it does apply today (it’s nearly midnight and I have fifteen minutes until Saturday). In case of doubt, having a bishop who uses Twitter can be very helpful.

    //Happy Easter Friday! It’s great to continue the celebrations of Easter – and so today to be exempt from the usual Friday abstinence. Enjoy!// @bishopegan

  9. aquinas138 says:

    ce lathrop,

    I know the Antiochian North American Archdiocese has no fasting from Pascha to Pentecost; the other jurisdictions I am aware of forbid all fasting during Bright Week, with regular Wednesday and Friday fasting resuming after Thomas Sunday.

  10. Stephen Matthew says:

    I enjoyed a 10 oz burger for the occasion. It was quite tasty.