Friday, July 31, 2009

Penitential Fridays

I realized this week that it's been awhile since I last tackled a serious Catholic topic, so it got the little wheels in my brain turning. Tiny, tiny wheels these days, sigh. Anyway, this morning over breakfast, I read an article in the New Oxford Review on penitential practices on Fridays. It struck a chord, so here we are, discussing how to bring ourselves a little bit of misery that we can offer up on Fridays.

So, it used to be that Catholics were obliged to abstain from meat on Fridays throughout the year. This is an ancient tradition of the Church that developed with the aim of making Friday, the day of the Lord's crucifixtion, more sacrificial and prayerful in preparation for the celebration of His resurrection to come on Sunday. Catholics nowadays know that we are not obliged to abstain from meat as a penitential practice anymore except for Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, per the 1983 Code of Canon Law. That being said, in the back of my mind I knew that we are still supposed to make Fridays penitential, but that we can do it in a manner of our choosing. It was all a bit vague in my mind, which is unusual for your very conscientious and research-oriented Catholic Librarian. To my surprise, I read that the current Code of Canon Law still recommends that Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays as their manner of penance on Fridays. I found an old 2005 article from This Rock magazine that confirms what I learned, and explains things very helpfully, here. I particularly like this quote:

"This interpretation is confirmed by norm 2, which states that 'Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the Passion of Jesus Christ.'"

I have been comtemplating fasting more lately, but I've always struggled with it. Fasting being a more general abstention from food - either between meals, skipping meals, or only eating bread and water on specific days. I've found it difficult to do while also cooking for a family. I don't want to digress, but essentially I've been looking for ways to physically draw my attention more to our Lord. So the penitential Friday thing seems like a much more manageable way to accomplish this goal. I thought it over this morning over my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and quickly realized that my planned lunch - leftover chicken florentine - was already thwarting me. Once I got to work and discovered that I forgot the leftovers (SIGH) I thought that maybe this is my chance to embrace this old, but still very much recommended, tradition of the Church. So, I'm sitting here, hungry, wondering what on earth I can get meatless to eat for lunch, when this campus barely has even coffee service available in the summer. I'm craving McDonalds Sweet Tea (on the $1 menu, you must check it out!) but that is hardly going to (a) quench my hunger, or (2) provide a lot of meatless choices. I'll let you know how this goes.

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