Last week I noted how Advent really can (and should) be a penitential season. Did you know that every Friday is a day of penance too? In last week’s article I cited the Code of Canon Law 1250 which says, “The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.” That means every Friday of the year, we are supposed to do some sort of penance. Why is this? Just like every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord, every Friday is a remembrance of Good Friday. As Jesus gave his life for us on Good Friday, we too are called to sacrifice something on that day. Without Good Friday, there can be no Easter Sunday! Another reason is similar to what I noted last week: in order to be able to truly feast, we need to fast. If we observe every day as a feast, then feasting becomes mundane. Think about it: if we celebrated our birthday every day, it would lose its glamor. So as Sunday is a day of rejoicing and feasting, there needs to be fasting or sacrifice prior to it to make Sunday special.
The traditional form of Friday penance is abstaining from meat as noted in CIC 1251. No, that did not get abolished with Vatican II—we already know it is obligatory during Lent! However, in 1966 the US bishops removed abstinence from meat as the obligatory method of penance for all US Catholics. However, they required that some other form of penance be substituted. So what do to? The important thing is to do something which reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice and is also a substantial sacrifice for us. Skip a meal, abstain from meat, give up dessert, turn off the TV, radio, or screens for the day. Find something that works for you! Let us fast so we can feast!
P.S. When a solemnity falls on a Friday, there is no penance. Solemnities are equal in dignity to Sunday and fasting when the bridegroom is with us does not make sense!