ASK FATHER: Abstinence on a Friday of Lent that is also the Feast of the Annunciation. What to do?

From a reader…


What is required / recommended regarding fasting and abstinence when a solemnity falls on a Friday in Lent?

And another…

I can’t make out if the Lenten Friday rule of abstinence applies to the Solemnity tomorrow?

I presume you are Latin Church Catholics.

Those who are bound by the law are to do penance on Fridays of Lent.

However, tomorrow, Friday is 25 March, the Solemnity (in the Novus Ordo calendar, which the 1983 Code presumes) of the Annunciation.

Please attend 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.

For those who don’t like the Usus Recentior or the Novus Ordo… your likes or dislikes make not the slightest difference. If you are a subject of the Latin Church, the 1983 Code pertains to you.

Because in the Novus calendar the Feast of the Annunciation has the rank of a Solemnity, and because can. 1251 applies to you, you are not bound to your Friday penance.

Of course you can do as you please. Do penance if you choose. You are not bound to it.   There are conflicting goods: celebrating a great feast of Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity, for even those feasts concerning Mary always look to the Lord, as she herself did, or, due to the penitential season, the proper desire to practice some denial for the sake of Lenten disciplina.

In these cases of great feasts during Lent, I generally suggest that people keep their festivities somewhat muted. The Solemnity is a true feast day.  That doesn’t mean necessarily extravagance.  It also includes refraining from unnecessary things.

Be penitentially festive. Or, if that doesn’t do it for you, be festively penitent.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    So excellent, so clear. Thank you, Fr. Z.

    We can, indeed, BOTH be penitential (in part) and festive (in part). For example, we can have a feast-day meal designed around no meat. Or have meat on the day, but take on some other penance that is fitting, on the side. Since we are having company, we will probably go festive on the meal, but not sure of the details.

    For those who don’t like the Usus Recentior or the Novus Ordo… your likes or dislikes make not the slightest difference.

    Ha, had to laugh at that. It’s interesting, though, that one of the usual opportunities is – by the above fact – not available: the opportunity to humble yourself to the law (and the will of the lawmaker, our superior in the Church) by obedience. In this case, that superior says “I impose no requirements”, so we can not be submissive to them. Other than THAT, we can make any sacrifices we think fitting.

  2. Flos Carmeli says:

    Many thanks for this quick response to both questioners, Father! I think we can aim to thread the penitentially festive/festively penitent needle. I pray you have a great feast day tomorrow!

  3. Adelle Cecilia says:

    Does the Lenten fast of 2 small and 1 regular meal still apply?

  4. oledocfarmer says:

    How about still observing the penance and offering it up so that Heaven will PLEASE accept the Consecration! PLEASE!

  5. redneckpride4ever says:

    Sounds to me like more of a convenience option. Allow me to explain.

    I work 2nd shift running a store (often alone). I’m allowed to consume hot food from the deli that is going to otherwise be disposed of. On Friday I can only hope one of the 3 meatless options are there. This store policy had allowed me to save money, a huge asset with current gas prices while raising a family.

    I’m currently on maternity leave since my wife is ready to bare a son, but if I had been at work today I would have had the option of consuming a small chicken wrap or the like. I also keep the traditional weekday fasts of lent.

    I think that might be what Fr. Z was getting at. Stay penitential, but allow yourself some wiggle room for the right purpose. In other words small amounts of meat for legitimate sustenance.

    We should also take into account the present day popularity of seafood. I admit that in the past I have gone to the Chinese buffet on days of abstinence and indulged on an endless supply of shrimp and crab. In doing so I was defeating the purpose. God can not be deceived, and exploiting a loophole in what the Church prescribes to negate a penance won’t exactly go into the plus column at the Particular or General Judgements.

  6. bigshoes says:

    *raises hand from the back of the classroom*
    What about being fenitentially pestive?

  7. Imrahil says:

    Dear redneckpride4ever,

    the fact that seafood is popular doesn’t mean it’s not abstaining. Likewise, the fact that what the Church considers fasting is not very far from what many consider a healthy diet and do on an everyday basis (i. e., just eat one full meal plus a small breakfast, called collazione in Italian, and afternoon-tea or the like) – I have to say I don’t – doesn’t mean it’s not fasting and we suddenly have to leave the collations away.

    Dear Adelle Cecilia,
    as it’s neither Ash Wednesday nor Good Friday, it does not. – Yes, I see what you probably mean. In the Elder Days (as the Elves would say) they would have fasted, and also abstained. And that’s what I’m going to do, while allowing myself “two full collations” as it were and planning to eat a rather festive fish dinner (on the other hand, I do not plan to somber the feast up in any way that does not refer to eating and the chanting of “Alleluia” – and this admittedly because for me an eating restriction is actually easier). But that is private practice.

  8. robtbrown says:

    I’ll do both by having one of my favorite meals: Baked cod with a topping of buttered, seasoned, crushed Ritz crackers.

  9. Imrahil says:

    Dear redneckpride4ever,

    I believe if you have the option of consuming food from some deli that otherwise would get thrown away, you aren’t bound by abstinence anyway. I believe not even on Good Friday (though don’t take my word for it).

  10. acardnal says:

    I think holy mother Church wants us to honor the Blessed Mother by dispensing with any acts of penance on March 25. It’s her day. Celebrate her by eating something you enjoy.

  11. redneckpride4ever says:


    Stuffing myself to the brim on fried shrimp while pretending to be a model of holiness because I turned down a stale
    hamburger is to ignore the spirit of the law and only abide by the letter. Just my opinion but I still think my choice to do such was poor.

    In other words gluttony is still a sin and I feel I wasn’t being truly penitential in seeking a loophole.

    I do have to agree on your point of disposed foods being salvaged. True charity trumps most everything. I might even consider asking a priest on that one. Food waste has always bugged me.

  12. matt from az says:

    My non-Catholic wife finally remembered that today is a Friday in Lent and was shocked when I agreed to grab a snack at Taco Bell.
    Generally, I reserve fast food for penance (with the exception of Chick-Fil-A, which we all know is God’s favorite). Today I was lucky. For the Solemnity of the Annunciation, I had the best chicken quesadilla of my life. It was hard to believe that Taco Bell could produce such fare.
    To top it off, I nearly got into a fistfight with an elderly lady in the parish parking lot when she said Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas, so today’s solemnity is meaningless.

    I was uncharacteristically polite. Don’t give me your boomer theology lady, I’m Catholic.

  13. Fr. Reader says:

    Very simple.
    Mortify your likes and dislikes, mortify your pride, and eat meat. And give thanks to God for it.
    Or don’t eat meat.

  14. Kenneth Wolfe says:

    As Father Z says, the novus ordo-based 1983 code of Canon Law is the current law.

    However, as those who attend the TLM exclusively like to note, the discipline in place during 1962 was fasting and abstinence was only waived on days of precept. So if one is following that 1962 discipline — voluntarily in 2022 — then neither fasting nor abstinence is waived on the Annunciation.

    To illustrate this point, read/listen to the second collect from the TLM of the Annunciation in 2022, taken from the Friday of the Third Week of Lent:
    “Accompany our fasts, we beseech, O Lord, with Thy benignant favor, that, as in the body we abstain from food, so in spirit we may refrain from sin. Through our Lord…”

    So, do what you want on a Friday — legally you can, as most anything goes in the novus ordo. But please don’t call things “traditional” when things like waiving abstinence for non-holy days of obligation are a very new practice.

    [Good catch. I noted that also when I read it during Mass. It is something to consider. It also is a good example of why I suggest starting to look at readings for Sundays and important feasts a few days before.]

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