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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Welcome Restoration

Meatless Fridays for Catholics in England and Wales

While there is a standing obligation to perform some form of penetential recognition of the day, I know that I often do not do so--more often than not.  Not because I'm unwilling but because the law itself is too nebulous to be of help.  When it is expected of all (Ash Wednesday, Good Friday,  and the Fridays of Lent) it is relatively easy to observe.

A moment out to remember what we are about as a people is salutary.  Perhaps the obligation should be more other-focused--but that is hard to do without serious interference in daily life.  For example an obligation to serve at a food station for the homeless, or to take a home-bound neighbor to the store, a doctor's appointment, or other needed or desired destination.  These would be the penance not of "sack-cloth and ashes"  but of "liberating the poor, the lonely, those imprisoned unjustly" etc.

But this sort of penance would suffer from the present Friday obligation--nebulosity. So some reminder that we are eternally in debt and that debt may only be paid to others is a good and necessary thing. 

2 comments:

  1. I'm surprised to see Friday penance seems nebulous. I'd have to look it up but I thought I remembered reading that a Friday penance is required and the catechism even advised that the easiest to do is the traditional going without meat on Friday. Anyway, that's how it goes down in our house. And the kids were the first to enforce it ... which was another surprise. :-)

    I like the Irish reminder that this is also a witness. So it is good for the person and also the community. Nice.

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  2. Dear Julie--

    It seems nebulous not because it is not required, but because it is unspecified and therefore not supported by the community as a whole. If you are doing one thing and I another, while we both are doing some form of penance, they do not resonate nor support each other.

    The meatless Fridays in Lent are a good example--the entire community is expected to observe these.

    My point is that when there is a single expectation for the entire community the expectation is reinforced by its singularity--by the fact that all around you are doing it and supporting you in doing it by their own actions.

    I can guarantee you that even very observant Catholics more often than not practice no observance on Friday--largely because of this lack of reinforcement.

    But that is all I meant by nebulosity--lack of specificity.

    shalom,

    Steven

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