Sunday 8 January 2012

Friday Abstinence again

I noticed that The Bones had a dilemma about whether or not to eat meat last Friday, it being the livid scar of the feast of the Epiphany. I, too was in a dilemma.

You see, I was travelling. It is my memory that travellers were dispensed from abstinence, but in their restoration of Friday abstinence, our bishops did not grant dispensations (at least explicitly) or specify when these might apply. I think that in the old days a parish priest might dispense his parishioners for a good reason, and in certain cases (such as when travelling) the dispensation was automatic. I should have liked to see a dispensation for dining when others (who are not Catholics) have cooked and when one does not wish to cause an awkwardness. In fact our bishops explicitly directed that in such cases we were to explain to our friends that we were not permitted to eat their food, but to explain to them charitably a concept that few Catholics understand these days. It would appear to amount to:

'well, no, it isn't about doing penance, because we left all that behind us forty years ago. It is actually about us feeling good about being Catholics and being different, and this being a good witness to you about Living Simply'.

So you get to inconvenience, annoy, exclude and patronise your hosts all at one time. Fun.

Like old Boney, I thought about it being the real feast of the Epiphany, and about travelling, and so at the airport I hovered over a chicken salad sandwich before good old Catholic Guilt won out and I took the egg mayonnaise.

On arrival in my uncle's house, he was already laying a chicken casserole on the table as I came through the front door. I ate it with him. Now, we are in Ireland, and the law of abstinence doesn't apply here. But I still felt guilty, and wondered whether I should be inconveniencing, annoying and patronising him to do my religious duty.

Last night we went to the only Sunday Mass in the parish -- strangely late on Saturday night, and it was carefully explained that as we had celebrated Epiphany last Friday, the Mass would be that of the Baptism of the Lord. So even had the abstinence laws applied in Ireland, my uncle was right to serve meat, and I had felt guilty for nothing ( even though I know that I had no need to anyway).

As for the new translation in Ireland; well the stories you hear about it being a disaster area are not correct. My uncle tells me the there was some grumbling from some of the priests (during Mass of course), but that the laity just got on with it. That was my experience, too. Everyone said the prayers at their own pace as usual, the speed ranging from very fast to lightning, and all but one of the people near me were using the new text without leaflets except for the Gloria and Creed. Only one person kept up the old responses, but as she was going faster than any others around her that was perhaps to be expected. The celebrant didn't stumble or grumble once (though he ad libbed from time to time), and he encouraged the correct people's responses by saying them loudly into the microphone faster than anyone else. Only at one point did all the congregation pray all in solemn unison instead of the usual in-your-own-time,-folks style, and that was the Pater Noster, said in Irish. I really am going to have to learn that.

I asked about the lapsation in light of the recent troubles of the Church, and here in the wild and wooly parts of County Clare it doesn't seem to be a problem; Mass attendance is still about 90-95%, and even draws in the increasing number of (non-Catholic) immigrants from England, Germany and elsewhere, who have discovered for themselves what an important part of social cohesion the Church is here. Well, it's nice to hear some good stuff, isn't it?

They hadn't heard about the new Nuncio, but were highly amused to hear that he he is called Charlie Brown. No doubt he will be presented with a dog soon.


Jane said...

Thanks for the good news in this post Father. It agrees with what my mother-in law tells me about Dublin, where long lines for Confession are quite normal as well.

A happy and holy New Year to you.

p.s. We celebrated the Epiphany on Friday and had a non-catholic guest at supper so had abstained on Thursday!

English Pastor said...

I understand your concern for your hosts at a meal which they have prepared for you, but to forgo meat on such occasions is a great witness, without which all we are left with is a private penance reminiscent of a private devotion? Personally, having forewarned my host that I would not be able to eat meat, I have found them most accommodating and somewhat impressed by fidelity to the penance.

vetusta ecclesia said...

I wish the Bishops ahd been more explicit re. abstinence. What about vegetable soups which MAY be based on a meat stock?
And when abroad and ignorant of the practice of the local diocese (or even which diocese we are in)do we have to follow home practice or can we assume that abstinence is not required outside England and Wales? My questions are legal rather than moral.

Part Time Pilgrim said...

Two things are clear:

1) When abroad you follow the calendar of the local church. (That's the origin of the saying "When in Rome do as the Romans") In Ireland you celebrate the Epiphany on 6th January so are dispensed on that day from an act of penance. (It's a Solemnity). You can choose a different form of penance for other Fridays when you are in Ireland.

2) The law of charity is more important than any other so if to refuse meat would cause offence or upset to your host you should eat it. (That would have been the case for your Uncle if point one had not applied).

In the old days when Friday abstinence was routinely practiced people understood these things better.

Had you been visiting someone in England (or Wales) on Friday you should have eaten the chicken and remembered next time to forewarn them.

Amanda said...

Another situation that causes me grief is the (rare) occasion when you know that the leftovers of a meat meal, made earlier in the week, just won't make it to Saturday. You then have the dilemma of either eating them Friday or throwing away good food....

The Bones said...

Father, am I right in thinking that the Bishops re-instatement of Friday abstinence does not state that to eat meat on Friday is a matter of sin. On reflection, I believe that my eating of a few slices of salami was disobedient.

However, I'd like to know whether in eating meat on a Friday, in the eyes of the Bishops, I have committed a sin and whether that sin is mortal or venial.

Mike said...

Living in Scotland I come to this matter from the opposite angle: am I bound by the rule of Friday abstinence when in England. (As somebody else said, when in Rome do as Rome does.) I consulted an English priest who gave me the opinion that I am bound by the rules of the Scottish Bishops wherever I am and am not, therefore, bound to abstinence when in England. Which rather suggests that those of you in England are required to abstain from meat on Fridays wherever you are, does it not?

pelerin said...

I notice that the LMS Chairman's site mentions the Epiphany abstinence day this year so it looks as though we were corect in thinking that it was still a day of abstinence even if we did attend a TLM Mass for Epiphany on the day.

I agree with Amanda that occasionally one finds in the fridge some meat left over which won't last until Saturday. Quite a dilemma for someone on their own - does one throw away or eat on Friday? This has happened a few times as I tend to forget what day it is sometimes! But taking Friday into consideration has made me more careful about planning what to eat so this does not happen.

Shane said...

Mass attendance is still about 90-95%


Pastor in Monte said...

In this particular corner; I'm well aware that things can be very different elsewhere, especially in cities.

Delia said...

This is all fine in a Catholic culture, and I take the bishops' point about Catholic identity in a secular one, but I also dislike causing non-Catholic hosts undue inconvenience (also Amanda's problem - seems dreadful to throw away a good steak!). Can one not bring some common sense to bear according to the circumstances, guided always by charity? I always tell people that I'm a Friday vegetarian (can't eat fish), but sometimes they simply forget, and it then seems ungracious and uncharitable not to eat what they provide.

I too went to Ireland last week, and told my hosts about the restrictions in England and Wales. They just said it didn't apply in Ireland and provided a most delicious meal – the enjoyment of which was spoilt slightly by feelings of guilt!

Shane said...

90-95% is certainly an extremely impressive figure, sadly it is very exceptional. In my part of rural Ireland, Mass attendance has plummeted in the last 10 years. The sex scandals are a small but significant factor. I suspect the newspaper polls on this topic are hugely over-inflated; people tend to exaggerate their attendance at Church. The situation is particularly desperate among the youth. As a university student, I would estimate that about 5% (at most) of my peers practice their religion. Catholicism in Ireland is but a skeleton of its former self; what remains is largely decorated ruins. In 20 years time the Irish Church will be invisible and Irish priests will be as common as Tasmanian aborginals. The hierarchy do not realize how serious the situation is.

motuproprio said...

An Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist had this on his blog, covering also the question of Friday fish and chips cooked in lard or dripping.

(from WDTPRS)

Prümmer says,

“The law of abstinence forbids eating meat and broth from meat, but not eggs, milk products, and also whatsoever condiments from the fat of animals.”

Sabetti-Barrett says:

“QUAER. 2. Quid dicendum de usu laridi?

Resp. Certum est non licere illud edere per frustra…

What is to be said about the use of lard?

Resp. It is clear that it is not permitted to eat it groundlessly and for an accompaniment with bread, because it is considered meat. It is permitted to use it even in evening snacks (refectiuncula), either as a condiment or in order to cook foods, provided that beforehand it will have been liquified. …

But wait! There’s more!

Paul VI’s Poenitemini says:

“The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat. The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing–as far as quantity and quality are concerned–approved local custom.”

The language of “condiments” has remained.

Therefore, you can cook your fish in beef fat. Use of fat from beef would not violate your abstinence from meat.

Andrew said...

At the risk of digression, my favourite " traveller's dispensation" story comes from a lunch I attended many years ago in Singapore during the fasting month of Ramadan. One of the guests, a very convivial Muslim genteleman who had just arrived from neighboring Malaysia, announced that he was on a traveller's dispensation and proceeded to order a very large Pre-prandial Whisky soda. The rest of us were too polite to ask whether the dispensation was really intended to include " haram" items like alcohol.

Amanda said...

Oooh, is "Bovril" a condiment, when spread thinly in a cheese sandwich??? My 13 yr old son would be soooo pleased if it is! ;-)

Sue Sims said...

I was amused at your comment regarding the speed with which priest and congregation motored through Mass. In Ireland about seven years ago, I was staying in a parish where the rosary was said after morning Mass each day. Struck by the speed with which it was recited, I decided to time it: it took (including the introductory prayers but not including prayers after the Salve Regina) seven and a half minutes. If there were a saying-the-rosary event in the Olympics, those parishioners would definitely have been contenders.