ASK FATHER: Friday penance in Lent on the Feast of St. Joseph

From a reader…


You have frequently posted blogs stating that the Friday penance is abrogated when that Friday is a solemnity. Would that apply to a Lenten Friday also, in this case tomorrow – the solemnity of the glorious St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lover of poverty, Terror of Demons, and Protector of Carmel?

This sort of question comes up almost every year.  At least we didn’t have the irritating problem of the Feast of St. Patrick this year.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law states:

Canon 1251: “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless [nisi] they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Friday 19 March is the Solemnity of St. Joseph.

Therefore, because it is a solemnity, Friday Lenten abstinence is not required.

You can voluntarily abstain from meat on a solemnity if you choose, but you are not required to.

We should take into consideration that in some places where there are people of Italian origin there is custom of preparing a free and open “table” dedicated especially for the poor.  Such initiatives will often include dishes with meat.  The Church’s law should put people at their ease that, were they to eat meat today, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, they would not be breaking the Church’s law on abstinence on Fridays of Lent.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Thank you Father. At my parish the homeschool ministry is doing a St. Joseph’s altar.

  2. APX says:

    My high school was named after St. Joseph, and as such, someone (it was either a staff member or a parent) would bake the most delicious braided “St. Joseph’s Bread” (it wasn’t sweet, but it had cinnamon in it and just tasted amazing. I wish I had a recipe, or knew who made it, but they stopped doing it shortly after I graduated in 2003.), which would be blessed by the priest and then shared amongst all the students and staff. Something like 500-600 people (that’s a lot of bread to braid).

    Today also happens to be the 10 year anniversary of my return to the church. I didn’t intend for it to happen on this solemnity, but it didn’t surprise me when I found out the date’s significance.

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