Ask a Priest

Confession and Novena

Dec 19, 2016

Hi Father,

If you don’t mind, I have two questions:

Q1. I know that on every Fridays Catholics are not supposed to have meat OR if we choose to have meat on Friday then we should do some penance and act of charity.During the past Fridays I had meat because I couldn’t resist the temptation, and I also did not do any act of penance or charity on those Fridays. It’s hard not to eat meat on Fridays at our hourse because my mom always cooks meat on Fridays for meal for my dad, who is not Catholic. I was originally planning NOT to have meat on that day but on that Friday when I saw a plate of meat, I was tempted and I could not resist the temptation. It’s not like I was deliberately planning to have meat on that day, but when I saw the meat I just could not resist the temptation and gave in. Another reason why I had meat on that day was also because I knew that my mom will ask me why I am not having a meal with her and dad, and if I tell her it is because we are not supposed to have meat on Friday, and I knew her reaction will be “Oh, give me a break. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You can’t live like that”. It’s hard because she is Catholic as well.

On another Friday I had meat because when I was having a bite of pizza, I momentarily forgot that the day was Friday and I shouldn’t have any ham, pepperoni, etc.

But nonetheless I should have done act of penance or charity if I had meat on those days. I was just being lazy, and perhaps I was preoccupied with some other things. Should I go to local priest and bring these two incidents during Confession (i.e. for not doing the act of penance and charity on those Fridays while at the same time having meat on those days)? or is it more like they are venial sins and confession is something that is not necessary? Am I in a state of mortal sin because of these incidents?

Q2. I am praying a novena right now and yesterday something erupted in my mind, saying “You should have gone to confession before you stawrted novena because your prayer will be powerless if you are in a state of sin”. Is this true? Should I stop the novena, go to confession, and restart my novena from day 1? Or should I just don’t worry about it, keep continue the current novena (I am on day 3), and just go to confession ASAP?

Thank you,


Asked at 10:59 pm on December 19th 2016

Hi Jin, up to the Second Vatican Council, almost everywhere in the Catholic Church there was a requirement to abstain from meat on Fridays. Not everywhere, as I found out when I went to study in Rome in 1963 – I was surprised to discover this wasn’t the regulation in Rome. During the Second World War, these regulations were relaxed (maybe no fish were available, whatever). Anyway, since then (with I think the exception of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, which may have re-introduced the requirement), that Friday prohibition on eating meat on Friday has been abolished, except for two days: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

So, even if you ate a rabbit on Friday – my favourite meat is rabbit, since when I was a child in Ireland we had one rabbit for our whole family of six and for me it was like heaven! – other than those two days, it’s not a sin to eat meat on Fridays. Even if, like you, we make a decision to fast on certain days, it’s not a sin if we don’t live up to our resolution.

Regarding eating meat in your family, it’s good to remember that it’s better to do something less perfect (we’re not talking about committing a sin) in unity with others, than something more perfect (like keeping a fast we’ve chosen to do ourselves) that causes disunity. But at least on those 2 days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, you can surely tell your mother that you have to abstain from meat – you can eat with your parents whatever else, other than meat, your mother has prepared – or, if you’re earning, buy her a fish!

And since that meat-eating on Friday wasn’t a sin, there’s nothing to confess, so please keep on with your novena, and I’d be very grateful if you include me in your prayers. Very best, Fr Brendan

Replied at 06:38 am on December 23rd 2016