For a scrupulous person (me!), who would like clarity on his obligations:
Is the extending of the Good Friday Fast to Holy Saturday obligatory? One translation of SC 110 says, “Let [the Paschal Fast] be celebrated everywhere on Good Friday and, where possible, prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, so that the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection may be attained with uplifted and clear mind.”
My brain says, well, it’s possible for me, so maybe I have to do it!
But doesn’t Canon Law only give us two days of obligatory fasting?
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
The pastors of the Church have an obligation to be clear and considerate to the faithful. Jesus didn’t tell His disciples, “Go to the ends of the earth, make a mess, and confuse everyone in My Name.”
It’s not just the scrupulous, but all the faithful who benefit from pastoral clarity. When laws are clear and concise, people know what to do. If they (for whatever reason) can’t follow the law, they have recourse to their pastors to ask for permission or dispensation, as the case may be.
Sadly, for the past 2000 years, there has arisen a good deal of confusion, largely due to those who should be clear.
The 1983 Code of Canon Law simply says that Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence in the universal Church (c. 1251) and that all Fridays of the year, unless a Solemnity should fall on a particular Friday, are days of abstinence.
The bishops of the United States have used their authority to allow the faithful to substitute another penance for abstinence on all Fridays outside of Lent, and the bishops of Canádia have used their authority to allow the faithful to substitute another penance for abstinence on all Fridays, including those of Lent (except for Good Friday).
We are, of course, free to abstain any day of the year – for health reasons, reasons of penance, reasons of taste, reasons of simple penance. No one is ever forced by law to eat meat.
The bishops at the Council urged that the penitential spirit of Good Friday, including the fast, be prolonged throughout Holy Saturday, but, like many of the expressed desires of the Council, it was never enacted into law.
Therefore, the faithful are free to continue their fasting throughout Holy Saturday, and for many, it’s probably a good thing. It’s not mandatory, and no one should feel guilty (or be made to feel guilty) if they don’t do it.