ASK FATHER: Can we eat meat on Friday in the Octave of Easter?

We are now in the Easter Octave – Happy 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.

Here is canon 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 Catholics for the Friday abstinence on this coming Friday.

Note well that the other Fridays of Eastertide are not Solemnities.  The relief from abstinence applies only to the Friday in the Octave of Easter.

BTW… this does not apply to the Octave of Christmas, for those days of that Octave are not counted as “Solemnities” as are those of the Easter Octave.

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”).

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, abstinence from other things can be of great spiritual effect.

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


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The reader asked a question that did not get a complete answer:

    “Traditionally, would the Friday abstinence from meat also apply during Fridays of the whole Easter season?”

    Although it is true the 1983/current code of canon law waives abstinence on Easter Friday, it should be noted (especially when someone is using the word “traditionally”) that the discipline in place before the 1983 code of canon law (and thus during the 1962 traditional Latin Mass) was abstinence from meat every Friday except for “days of precept” — aka, holy days of obligation. Easter Friday, not being a holy day of obligation, was a day of abstinence.

    I fully recognize the 1983 code of canon law trumps law before it. But we should at least note what the discipline was during, for instance, 1962, should a reader choose to make a voluntary determination based on that information — especially when asking what was “traditionally” observed.

  2. Charles Sercer says:

    Kenneth, I was going to make the exact same point – by using the word “traditionally” the reader seemed to be asking about the pre Vat-II practice.

    It is fine to point out what the 1983 code requires of us, but Catholics, especially those desiring to live out tradition as fully as possible, should be made aware of the traditional rules about fasting and abstinence – which of course did not allow for meat to be eaten on this Friday.

    Technically, it is even more traditional to always abstain on every Friday of the year, regardless of whether it was a holy day of obligation or not. The allowance to omit abstinence on some 1st class feasts is also technically an innovation in the larger picture of Church history.

    I don’t at all intend to come across as some “holier than thou” type, so I apologize in advance if that is how this sounds – but honestly, I can’t fathom that not eating meat for one day out of the week is really that hard. Furthermore, I see no reason to EVER omit a small act of penance on any Friday, the day our Lord died on the cross.

    All in all, while it would be simply false to tell someone that they are bound under pain of sin to abstain on this Friday, it would nonetheless be a grave disservice to those attempting to practice the traditional Catholic faith NOT to strongly encourage them to abstain this Friday (and any Friday).

  3. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

  4. Public Savant says:

    … there is no obligation. There is some merit though. Do you only do your obligation in loving your wife?

  5. Imrahil says:

    And while I do think that we can eat meat this Friday, I think it is a case of “lex dubia non obligat” rather than “the law clearly says we can”. We’ve got a day of an Octave that trumps solemnities. That this also means the “except for solemnities” of the abstinence canon applies is an interpretation.

    Dear Charles Sercer,
    I don’t think it was ever Church practice to abstain on Christmas Day, it demonstrably wasn’t since the High Middle Ades, though granted that was once the only exception. Also, it is quite true that this particular act of penance is not hard (“a mere gesture, as it were”, Msgr. Knox calls it), but the general principle not to omit small acts of penance, ever, if not quite hard, would be too hard on the faithful, even if restricted to the more penitential times of the Church year.

    In any case, there’s a world of a difference between a pius act of an individual, though that’s a nice thing, and a collective act of the Church. On dispensed Fridays we don’t have the latter in any case.

    (Where I live, all Fridays are dispensed except Good Friday, if you bring a substitute sacrifice. My own practice is only to do so for a reason, and then pray the Litany of the Sorrows of Christ as a substitute sacrifice. My practice for Easter Friday is to eat meat even for no specific reason other than “Easter Week” but still pray the litany as if I were making a substitute sacrifice.)

  6. chuckharold says:

    Back in the day, we abstained from meat on Friday as a penance for something of which I know not why. Friday was fish day. Frankly, I can’t afford Friday fish anymore at $26 a pound. Perhaps I should start a practice of Meat Friday although Meat Monday sounds better. Yet, it conflicts with the new practice of Meatless Monday. It’s Taco Tuesday, so that day is out of the running. Wednesday, I don’t know. Thursday’s are for turkey and Fridays are for … Oh, forget it!

  7. @chuckharold:

    Try olive oil-packed canned tuna–and not just in tuna-noodle casserole. You can substitute it for chicken chunks in just about any dish–curries, pasta, tacos, etc. All you have to do is ignore the part of the recipe about sauteing the chicken chunks, move on to saute or otherwise cook everything else in the recipe, and then add the tuna in chunks from the can or cans at the very end, since canned tuna is precooked. You’ll save a lot of money. “Meatless Monday,” by the way, is for the unchurched. Catholics do meatless Friday.

    @ everyone else:

    I’m a Ph.D. medievalist, and I can assure you that at least since the Middle Ages–that is, at least for 800 years–the Friday fast has never applied to Christmas when Christmas falls on a Friday. How insane would it be otherwise (“No goose for you!”)? (Although some rigorist Christians tried to argue to the contrary.) As for other solemnities, the fast rule seems to have applied, although there were probably plenty of dispensations. As for eating meat on Easter Friday, no one did that during the pre-Vatican II days, so why start now? It’s just one day, anyway.

  8. ex seaxe says:

    1917 canon 1252§4. On Sundays or feasts of precept, the laws of abstinence and of fast cease, except for feasts during Lent, nor are vigils anticipated; likewise, it ceases on Holy Saturday afternoon.

  9. Antonia D says:

    Fr. Z – thanks as always for your excellent explanations!

    Kenneth Wolfe & Charles Sercer – thank you both for this very helpful addition. That is exactly what I was looking for… what the traditional practice was regarding meat on Easter Friday. For some reason this info is left out of my traditional calendar. As much as I enjoy the rare occasion of a “meat Friday,” I will abstain next year on Easter Friday.

    Imrahil – thank you for the suggestion of saying the litany. I can’t find the exact title of the Litany of the Sorrows of Christ. Could it be listed as the Litany of the Passion, by Cardinal Newman?

    Charlotte Allen – good suggestions for the recipes.

    May God bless all of you and your loved ones this Easter season! I will pray for you. Please say a prayer for me & my family if you get a chance.

  10. Joe in Canada says:

    permitting fish on Fridays is a concession – fairly recent I gather, maybe 18th century? But lots of Catholics grew up with no fish on Friday (or Wednesday). “Fish Fridays” is a cultural thing, not a religious thing. If you don’t know why you are abstaining on Fridays, find out. Then the cost of fish vs the cost of warm-blooded animal becomes irrelevant.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Dear Antonia D,

    that’s just a personal tradition, but I guess it was invented by the writers of Gotteslob, our German prayerbook, in the 1975 edition.

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