ASK FATHER: Eating meat on Friday during 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…

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Canon Law, Hard-Identity Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Aquinas Gal says:

    I don’t understand why one would need to ask a priest for a dispensation, since at least in the US the bishops have already done that in law. I know the idea was to make it a voluntary penance, not an obligation, and if one eats meat then he should do another kind of penance on Fridays.

  2. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    It may be of interest for a little history on Easter Friday abstinence. Prior to the new (current) code of canon law, abstinence was mandatory on (among other days) every Friday of the year except if it was a day of precept (that is, a holy day of obligation in your country). This is why folks will hear there was Easter Friday abstinence in 1962. (Because there was.)
    Interestingly, before 1962, instead of every day of the octave of Easter designated as a first class liturgical feast day, only Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and Easter Tuesday were “double of the first class” ranks. Easter Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday were “semidouble” days until the Pius XII/Bugnini reforms of 1955. I think it is important to at least know this background to fully grasp the amount of changes that occurred in the mid-20th century.

  3. Roy Hobbs says:

    Mrs. Hobbs and I have been doing our best to go meatless on Fridays for the past three years or so. We started doing this upon (actually) learning (on our own) essentially what Can. 1251 states. Even though we both grew up Catholic, we were both always taught that meatless Fridays were only for Lent. To emphasize this, some time back I had to visit the the parish where I grew up to attend a funeral. This happened to occur on a Friday (outside of Lent). After the funeral, a lunch was provided. Going through the line, someone had mentioned how good the roast beef sandwiches. I just commented that it’s Friday, so we won’t be having them. With a puzzled look, the response I got was, “Why not? It’s not Lent.” I bring this up not as a point of chastisement to that parishioner (I was lead to believe the exact same thing for the majority of my life), but how when given an inch (i.e., the relaxation of abstinence from meat as long as some other penance is done), most will take a mile (i.e., one only has to do abstinence on Friday’s during Lent!). At the end of the day, I blame this on poor catechesis.

  4. Volanges says:

    When the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued its norms on the new code of Canon Law, it did not distinguish between the Fridays of Lent and the rest of the Fridays; we are free to substitute an act of piety or another sacrifice to replace abstinence on all Fridays. I don’t know about any other Catholics in Canada, but I don’t remember ever being told that Fridays were still days of abstinence. All I remember is being told that we could now eat meat on Fridays; no mention of substituting anything for abstinence. After reading the Code and the Norms I opted to return to abstaining from meat on all Fridays.

    Two or three years ago the Archbishop of Ottawa formally decreed that Friday abstinence was mandatory for all his flock during Lent. I’m not aware of any other bishop/archbishop doing this.

  5. L. says:

    Not too many years ago I was told in confession by a Monsignor (a “My Lord,” that is) that “we used to believe in that,” i.e. abstinence or some other observance on Fridays outside of Lent, but that we didn’t any longer. This was instructive, but not in the way he intended.

  6. Sword40 says:

    My wife and I have followed the 1962 calendar since we joined our FSSP parish 10 years ago. First at North American Martyr’s in Seattle and now at St. Joseph’s just south of there, in Tacoma. She is 75 and I am 79. Yes, we know that we are exempt but we can still do it as both of us are pretty healthy.

    We both figure we have a few years left so we’ll continue as long as we can.

  7. In England the Friday abstinence has been reinstated for all Catholics – we never had the “all Fridays in Lent” version.

    [Except, I believe, for today, since today is a ranked in the NO calendar as a Solemnity.]

  8. Bonaventurian says:

    I realized this today when I got lunch after Mass and my confessor told me that we aren’t really supposed to be doing penance during the Octave of Easter. Glad to see it canonically confirmed!

  9. I generally abstain from meat on all Fridays. It’s a Dominican thing.

    But today, I ate bacon.



  10. Shonkin says:

    I was a twenty-year-old college student (at a Jesuit school, though) when the Church did away with mandatory Friday abstinence except during Lent. I never heard anything about being obliged to substitute a different form of penance on Fridays outside of Lent — not from any of the Jesuits nor from any parish priest. Oh well.