Friday Fast Fact: Friday Penance

(photo: Shutterstock image)

Did you know that penance is not only for Lent and Advent? And that we Catholics are not only supposed to be doing penance on the Fridays of Lent?

Of course, penance is good to do at many times for many reasons.  But in fact, canon law says this:

Canon 1250—All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the universal Church.

Canon 1251—Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1253—It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

That’s right. Not just during Lent.  But every Friday of the year for your entire life.  I know.  Crazy!  But it’s also good for us and necessary.

Our USCCB here in the USA did indeed allow for substitution (per canon law) so that the traditional law of abstinence is no longer the “sole prescribed means” of observing.  But the fact is that we are supposed to be doing some form of penance every Friday (except solemnities).

Did you know this?  I only just learned this in very recent years.  I’m still a bit baffled as to why nobody ever taught me this.  I feel a bit cheated, to be honest.  Anyway, now I know. And now you know.

If you’re not sure what to do, just abstain from meat. Easy. But fasting (and abstinence) of any kind is a very powerful thing to do.  In fact, Jesus tells us that some things require prayer and fasting:

“And when he was come into the house, his disciples secretly asked him: Why could not we cast him out? And he said to them: This kind can go out by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” - Mark 9:27-28 (Douay Rheims)

Prayer is a powerful thing. And we turn to it quite naturally in times of need. But we often forget a most powerful prayer partner: fasting. And many of us (myself included) have spent most of our lives not knowing we have been asked to do penance every Friday. If we had known this, perhaps more of our prayers would have been answered by now.

[Possible penance for today: Go to your DVR. Delete every show on it.]

Whatever penance you do, offer it up for the unborn and their mothers as we pray and work, especially today, for a real culture of Life.

Have a blessed Friday and weekend everyone!