Corned beef OK on Lenten St. Patrick’s Day, Archbishop Hebda says

| February 22, 2017 | 1 Comment

Gay Sherry, left, and Brigid Murray, both of Northern Ireland, smile as they watch the 255th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17, 2016, in New York City. CNS/Gregory A. Shemitz

Chancellor: Catholics who eat meat on March 17 should make another sacrifice

Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, but Archbishop Bernard Hebda granted a dispensation from the practice for St. Patrick’s Day, which falls on a Friday this year.

Susan Mulheron, chancellor of canonical affairs for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, wrote in a Feb. 22 letter addressed to clergy, consecrated women and men, and lay faithful of the archdiocese that the dispensation has been “granted to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, as well as any visitors or travelers who may be physically present within the territory of this archdiocese, a dispensation from the obligation of abstinence from meat on March 17, 2017.”

Archbishop Hebda made the decision in consultation with the archdiocesan Presbyteral Council and took into consideration “both past practice and present circumstances” and “judged that [the dispensation] would serve the common spiritual good,” Mulheron wrote.

“As a general rule, a request for a dispensation from the obligation of abstinence on Fridays of Lent will not be considered unless some serious reason is present,” she wrote. “It has been noted, however, that Friday of the second week of Lent this year corresponds with St. Patrick’s Day (March 17), which has traditionally been an occasion for joy-filled celebrations in this archdiocese.”

If Catholics choose to eat corned beef — or any other meat — on St. Patrick’s Day, they must also “undertake a work of charity, an exercise of piety, or an act of comparable penance on some other occasion during the Second Week of Lent,” Mulheron wrote.

She noted that Lent is “a penitential season that calls us to spiritual exercises, penitential acts, charitable works, fasting and almsgiving,” and quoted Pope Francis’ message for Lent this year: “Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in is word, in the sacraments, and in our neighbor.”

Catholics ages 18-59 who do not have a medical condition are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday, March 1, and Good Friday, April 14, by eating no more than one full meal and two lighter meals, which combined are less than a full meal. Catholics ages 14 and older are also to abstain from meat on all Fridays in Lent.

However, Mulheron added, Catholics not bound by meat abstinence and fasts should still find ways to enter in the penitential liturgical season.

“Pastors and parents are to see to it that their children, even when not bound by the law of fast and abstinence, are educated in an authentic sense of penance and are encouraged to do acts of penance suitable to their age,” she wrote. “All members of the Christian faithful are encouraged to do acts of penance and charity during the Lenten season beyond what is prescribed by the law.”

Archbishop hinted that he planned to grant the dispensation while speaking at Theology on Tap Feb. 8 in St. Paul. A young adult asked if Archbishop Hebda would grant the dispensation on St. Patrick’s Day, as in keeping with past archbishops. The archbishop first asked for a show of hands of who wanted to eat corned beef to honor St. Patrick.

“When you get a dispensation — and I think it’s coming — you should do penance on another occasion,” he told the crowd. “So it’s like a get out of jail free card, but you have to pay sometime.”

American Catholics traditionally fasted from meat every Friday of the year until 1966, when the U.S. bishops released new guidelines on fasting and abstinence. They lifted the obligation of abstinence for every Friday, writing that dietary, economic and social norms made refraining from eating meat no longer an effective form of penance for everyone.

“Meat was once an exceptional form of food; now it is commonplace,” they wrote in a “Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence.” However, the bishops did not remove the Catholic obligation to engage in penance on Fridays.

“Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified,” they wrote. “Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday by freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.”

They added: “It would bring great glory to God and good to souls if Fridays found our people doing volunteer work in hospitals, visiting the sick, serving the needs of the aged and the lonely, instructing the young in the faith, participating as Christians in community affairs, and meeting our obligations to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our community, including our parishes, with a special zeal born of the desire to add the merit of penance to the other virtues exercised in good works born of living faith.”

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