ASK FATHER: Penance on Friday in the Octave of Christmas

I’ve been texting with a Famous Catholic Author™ about today, a Friday in the Christmas Octave, and the obligation to do penance.  I’ve received email about it, too.

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.

Note can. 1251 in the 1983 Code.

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.

Friday in the Octave of Christmas is not a liturgical solemnity.  Hence, we are obliged to do penance today, Friday in the Octave.

However, 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.

Also, it may be that some local places have exceptions.   For example, if you belong to St. Thomas Becket parish, then today is your patronal feast.   Also, perhaps your conference of bishops made another ruling.  I believe that is the case for England and Wales.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. APX says:

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

    Sometimes it’s a bigger Penance to abstain from abstaining because you’re on the 5th Day of Leftover Roast that you would rather throw out and eat something meatless rather than choke down the same thing you’ve been eating for the past week. I’m told that doing such does not count as Friday Penance and that it would still be better to go meatless than substitute something else “because the tradition is to abstain from meat”.

  2. Marion Ancilla Mariae II says:

    I’ve been abstaining from meat for quite some time. It just now occurs to me: to do so is more of an inconvenience than a penance; most of the time I could take or leave meat. To eat meat is mostly a convenience because I can grab some carry-out on the way home from work and most restaurant menus center on meat. I usually order some soup or salad, sometimes chicken. I fix dishes with meat in them mostly for my husband’s sake; I do eat them, too, of course. My idea of a feast is just plain Mac and cheese, which he hates. I think I ordered a steak in 2014 or ’15. I’m trying to think what would be more penitential for me than abstaining from meat.

    Ask me to give up butter, though, and then you’d have an irate customer on your hands.

  3. pjmpjm says:

    How is Fr H?

  4. Herman Joseph says:

    Merry Christmas Father Z! I think it was back in 2012 that you wrote a post about Friday penance. The crux of that post is that there is no longer any obligation under pain of sin to do anything at all penitential on Fridays outside of Lent. As far as I know this is still the situation in the USA, so I just want to clarify whether or not this is truly still the case. That being said, of course not doing anything on Friday, even if there is no pain of sin for doing no penance (outside of Lent) is like saying a husband is not obliged to give frequent kisses to his wife; perhaps this is not a strict obligation or binding under pain of sin, but it’s also not the best road to take. Jesus surely deserves our, well, “kisses of penance,” even if there is no obligation under pain of sin!

    [When, in the post-Conciliar reform of the Mass, references to sin for defects in the Mass were dropped, liturgical abuses exploded. We are not better off today because the Church stopped talking about mortal and venial sin as much as she did before. We have obligations as Catholics. If we do not fulfill them either on purpose or by neglect, we cannot be helping ourselves.]

  5. JesusFreak84 says:

    …..oops….wish I’d found this yesterday before I ate dinner… *sigh*

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