Ask a Priest – Are We Supposed to Abstain from Meat on Fridays in Lent?

08 Feb 2013

Feb 08, 2013

What exactly are we supposed to do on Fridays during Lent. I heard that not having meat is no longer compulsory, is that true? Are we supposed to fast every Friday?

Whether or not we are supposed to abstain from meat on Fridays in general, or during Lent, depends on the bishops in each country have decided. Here in Australia we are allowed to eat meat on Fridays in Lent, and it is only obligatory to not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Nevertheless, every Friday and even more so in Lent, is meant to be a day when we commemorate the suffering and death of Our Lord by making some sacrifice. This can be done in a variety of ways. As you can see in this explanation of Lenten obligations by Cardinal Pell we can do this through prayer, some act of self-denial, or the practice of charity to others.

Of course fasting is traditionally associated with Lent and you might like to read Benedict XVI’s Lent Message for 2009 in which he spoke about it.

What value does fasting have, he asks. Then he goes on to observe that we can read in the Bible many times the way in which fasting is associated with avoiding sin. Today it is common to find reference to dieting, but linked only to bodily concerns. As the Pope explained, however, the purpose of fasting is quite different and is meant to “assist us to mortify our egoism and open our heart to love of God and neighbor, the first and greatest Commandment of the new Law and compendium of the entire Gospel.”

“The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord,” the Pope explained.

As we prepear for Lent you can also read what the Catechism has to say about penance and fasting. It starts here with no. 1430, and as you can see the first number points out that it is not the external gestures that are an end in themselves, rather they are meant to help us to a conversion of our heart. The next section goes on to describe the different forms of penance.

Therefore, even if you are allowed to eat meat on Fridays in Lent there are many ways in which to make a sacrifice and perform penance during Lent.

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