Friday Penance

Because Jesus died on Good Friday, every Friday should be set aside as a day abstinence and mortification for Catholics, in prayerful remembrance of Jesus’ saving Passion and Death.

Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians abstained from eating the flesh of animals on Fridays since that was the day that Jesus gave up his flesh and shed his blood on the Cross.

The meat of animals and birds was a more expensive delicacy and associated with feasts and celebrations. Fish and other seafood was permitted because it was more common and simple.

All Catholics were obligated to abstain from meat as a Friday penance until 1966. In that year, local bishops were permitted to decide how these penances would be observed based on local and cultural factors in their countries.

Abstaining from meat remains the default practice but the Catholic bishops of the United States empowered individual Catholics to substitute other penitential practices if they would be more beneficial.

Challenged to be more penitential and to make more significant sacrifices, Catholics are strongly encouraged to deny themselves and to perform works of mercy to honor Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross on every Friday of the year.

The Church encourages some form of penance on Fridays:

Catholic Answers

Every Friday is a day of penance:

Catechesis Vids

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?”

Matthew 16: 24-26

The Church has always viewed Friday as a special day:


The significance of Friday has not changed:

Breaking In The Habit

The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1438

A day for penance and acts of charity:

Diocese of Gary

Entering into Jesus’ Passion every Friday:

Bridgeport Diocese

In the first place, Holy Mother Church, although it has always observed in a special way abstinence from meat and fasting, nevertheless wants to indicate in the traditional triad of “prayer—fasting—charity” the fundamental means of complying with the divine precepts of penitence. These means were the same throughout the centuries, but in our time there are special reasons whereby, according to the demands of various localities, it is necessary to inculcate some special form of penitence in preference to others. Therefore, where economic well-being is greater, so much more will the witness of asceticism have to be given in order that the sons of the Church may not be involved in the spirit of the “world,” and at the same time the witness of charity will have to be given to the brethren who suffer poverty and hunger beyond any barrier of nation or continent. On the other hand, in countries where the standard of living is lower, it will be more pleasing to God the Father and more useful to the members of the Body of Christ if Christians—while they seek in every way to promote better social justice—offer their suffering in prayer to the Lord in close union with the Cross of Christ.

Pope Paul VI, Paenitemini, 17 February 1966

A reminder that Jesus took on flesh:

St Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church Fernley

Abstinence symbolizes dependence on God:

Catholic News Service

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

Looking forward to eternal glory with the Lord:

Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

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