Apr 16, 2015

Another handout on Friday Penance all year

Below, please find another article on Friday penance that may be helpful to distribute to family and friends. This article was written by a priest friend of Father Ryan's, and says essentially the same, only in a bit more accessible language!

At the end, please find an homily which explains the logic of fasting and abstinence.



As the Easter Season opens and we’re tempted to make the Season of Lent a distant memory, it might seem strange to keep talking about penance, but it is good to review the penance and fasting which the Church requires of all Catholics throughout the entire year. Indeed, we know that penance is the badge of our spiritual combat; and, as the Christian warfare against vice and temptation knows no rest, neither do we rest from the regular practice of penance.

As Lent approaches each year, it’s pretty common for folks to talk about "giving stuff." We might think of giving up desert, or TV, or video games; and we all have to “give up” meat on Friday. Moreover, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are the two days of the year when we all have to “give up” some of our food and allow ourselves to be hungry for the day.

But did you know we’re expected to “give stuff up” all year round? This is primarily on Friday (yes, every Friday!), when all the members of the whole Church, as a rule, “give up” meat. But in the United States, our bishops have given us permission to substitute some other sacrifice or good work in place of “giving up” meat. In fact, this is such a serious duty of ours, a duty towards God Himself, that we do mortal damage to our relationship with God when we choose not to make these sacrifices on these particular days. It is so serious, that the obligation to do penance of some sort on Fridays all year round binds gravely – that mean that it would be a mortal sin habitually to fail to do penance on Fridays.

Easter Sunday is a joyous day because it’s the day that Christ conquered sin and death by His Resurrection. But we can’t forget that when Christ rises from the tomb, He still has holes in his hands and feet and his side - the very places where he was nailed to the Cross and pierced with a lance. Doubting Thomas reminds us of this quite vividly.

Those wounds are now trophies, kind of like the calluses that come to our feet from training for a race or to our fingers from learning the guitar or climbing mountains. It may have been painful getting ready or practicing, but when we cross the finish line, reach the peak, or strike the final cord, there’s a great sense of accomplishment.

Penance is one of the ways we stay in good spiritual shape, and if we don’t keep training all year round, we get flabby! Penance is like those nail marks, it reminds us that without the Cross there is no Resurrection. Without the Cross, we are too weak to reach the prize of heaven. So let us take up our Cross and follow Christ! He is truly Risen from the dead! Those who share in his Cross will one day share also in the glory of his Resurrection!

Here’s a quick summary of what is required of us as Catholics in the way we honor God by doing Penance:

If I’m 14 or older: No meat (or some other form of Penance) on every Friday of the Year, except if that day is a Solemnity, such as Christmas Day or the Sacred Heart. No meat on Ash Wednesday, each Friday of Lent, including and especially, Good Friday.

If I’m between 18 and 60: Fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, that means, only one full meal but two smaller ones that together are not equal to the full meal are okay to maintain your strength throughout the day. And no snacking! We’re also encouraged, but not required, to continue the Good Friday fast all the way until Easter Sunday – meaning that we should consider fasting on Holy Saturday.


Sunday Homily of February 22, The First Sunday of Lent 2105
Listen online [here]!