Practicing Friday Penance

Image of Jesus on the crossFridays in the Catholic Church have traditionally been a day of penance. It’s a practice that dates to the early Church, when Fridays, in addition to other days of the week, were specifically devoted to fasting. The Catholic Catechism specifically notes Fridays throughout the year are in memory of Christ’s death.

Specifically, on Fridays, the Church asks its members to engage in “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)

Traditionally, Catholics have abstained from non-fish meat every Friday throughout the year. However, in some regions, including the United States, the bishops have allowed alternatives to the abstinence requirement, except during Lent. The Catechism, as quoted in the last paragraph, spells out nice alternatives.

While abstaining from meat may be preferable and is certainly the traditional practice, it’s acceptable in some places to do any wholesome practice that involves some form of penance. A few things I’ve done in the past include:

Reading the Scriptures, the Church Fathers, or other theologians
Saying a few penitential prayers or litanies. Doing an act of charity
Praying the rosary, chaplet, etc.
Making a pilgrimage to local churches or shrines

While there are options in some places, what ultimately matters is that we do a penitential act and commit ourselves to greater union with the crucifixion and sacrifice of Christ.

About Jonathan Bennett

Jonathan Bennett is a writer, speaker, and small business owner. He started ChurchYear.Net in 2004, along with his brother David. The site gets over one million visitors a year. His writings have also appeared in church bulletins, newspapers, and other media.

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