A Note from Fr. Derek

Some time ago I saw, online, an advertisement encouraging people to observe “Meatless Mondays,” along with a recipe to reinforce it.  This reminded me of an experience a few years ago when I saw some signs in the cafeteria of a Catholic university encouraging the same thing.  I presume Mondays were chosen for this simply because meatless and Monday both start with the letter “m.”  I’m somewhat correct.  It seems that during World War I, in order to reduce consumption of some important staples, the U.S. government proclaimed “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays,” encouraging families to sign on to a pledge to keep this going.  In 2003, the idea of “Meatless Mondays” was revived with the idea that on Monday we make decisions that would affect the rest of the week and that this would lead to healthier living.  This, however, seems to focus the action of abstinence on one’s self.

 

For Christians, however, Friday is the day that we associate as a day of abstinence from meat.  This is because Fridays are supposed to be observed with a certain amount of penitential reverence, commemorating the day of the week on which our Lord Jesus suffered and died on the Cross.  Observing Fridays as a day of abstinence from meat comes to us from the days of the Apostles.  Are you aware that the Code of Canon Law (the law of the Church) still obliges Catholics throughout the world to abstain from meat on all Fridays (even outside of Lent), unless that Friday is a Solemnity?  Recognizing that there are differences in customs, climates and food prices, among other things, the same law permits local bishops to modify this law for their area.  In 1966, the Catholic bishops of the United States recognized that many people may already be keeping a meatless diet and that abstaining from meat was not always the most effective form of penance.  As a result, they issued a Pastoral Statement in which they said that the faithful were no longer bound to abstain from meat on Fridays (except those of Lent).  They also reinforced, however, that this was not to diminish the reality that Friday is a day of penitential observance.  To keep this in mind, they noted that, while abstaining from meat on Fridays (not Mondays) is a time-honored tradition, those who choose to have meat on Friday (outside of Lent) should seek out some other “work of self-denial and personal penance.” In this way, the each of us is given the freedom to choose the best way to unite ourselves to Christ’s sufferings each Friday.

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