ASK FATHER: Must we abstain from eating 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 canonical 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, because the 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…

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. TonyO says:

    This is one of the things I love about your blog, Fr. Z: timely advice, where the advice is backed up by solid and clear evidence from authoritative sources – so I not only know THAT it is so, I know why and how and what the boundaries are. That’s invaluable.

  2. Charles Sercer says:

    I am not sure Father answered the question that was asked. [Yes. He did.] Perhaps the question could have been more specific, but given that the question referred to the “traditional practice” of abstaining on all Fridays of the whole year, he does not seem to be asking what the Code of 1983 requires. [So what?] It is good to know what binds us officially, [And?] which is found in the 1983 code, and Father certainly explained that very well. But the reader was pretty clearly asking about what was required before the 1983 code, and before the 1966 modifications. [And?]

    Major mitigations from previous centuries of fasting and abstinence practices began in the 17th or 18th century and progressively led to where we are today – that is, two days of fasting only required, and only nine days of abstinence (though many argue that the new code lifts the obligation of abstinence on a regular Friday of Lent if a Solemnity falls on it, in which case it would be even fewer than nine days).

    However, the most longstanding practice in the Roman Church was to abstain on all Fridays, regardless of any feast falling on it (including Christmas day, though there have been individual – i.e. usually local, and not perpetual – dispensations for that). People certainly have a right to know what currently binds them – the 1983 Code – but when people ask what was traditionally required, they should be just as clearly told what the actual traditional practice was, which is certainly not what is contained in the 1983 Code.

    [Father answered he question. Read his answer.]

  3. Imrahil says:

    Dear Charles Sercer,

    three points.

    1. It was never, never ever, the Church’s practice to abstain on Christmas Day. I grant that was (to my knowledge) at one time the only exception from the Friday abstinence, but at least this one exception there always has been.

    2. “Look how far ideas of that kind have brought us” is no argument. If at anything, it is an argument for leniency: We who can’t enjoy belonging to a Church with vigorous fasting and abstinence practices, which we would prefer (well, at least we’d prefer belonging to a Church somewhat more vigorous fasting and abstinence practices) should at least be allowed to avail ourselves of the very-little-compensation of applying the leniency to ourselves, especially for perfectly pious reasons such as celebrating the Easter Octave.

    3. He who asked said “the traditional Friday abstinence”, that is in the natural meaning of words “as opposed to a substitute penance or no penance at all. As there nothing particularly pre- or postconciliar about the Friday abstinence, in itself (except the possibility of substitute penance which was his point), if he’d specifically insisted on 1917 law he’d have said so.

    (As for me: I think it helpful to follow 1917 law as personal practice. However, a restaurant I sometimes frequent has a program of keeping up the tradition of consuming all parts of an animal, resulting in a not quite expensive meal; they serve something different for any day of the week, and if I intend, as I do, to try the Friday course one time, then Easter Friday is the day to do so.)

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