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Conflicted about Fasting and Abstinence -- They're on the way back! [Catholic Caucus]
CatholicCulture.org ^ | April 12, 2013 | Dr. Jeff Mirus

Posted on 04/12/2013 8:50:10 PM PDT by Salvation

Conflicted about Fasting and Abstinence

By Dr. Jeff Mirus | April 12, 2013 3:30 PM

Have you noticed that fasting and abstinence are making a modest comeback in the Church—at least the English-speaking Church—which all but abandoned these practices during the course of the 20th century? The English bishops brought back abstinence formally in 2011. The American bishops have been calling for it, without actually changing the rules, since 2012.

Back in my grandparents’ day, each Friday of the year was a day of fast and abstinence (plus some other days), and all the days of Lent were fast days with abstinence added on Fridays and Saturdays, all under pain of sin. In my parents’ day, fasting and abstinence were required only on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent, though abstinence on Fridays throughout the year was retained. In my day, in his 1966 Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, Pope Paul VI relaxed the rules of fasting, requiring it only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and left much to local episcopal conferences. Thus in 1966 in the United States and 1985 in England and Wales, abstinence on Fridays outside of Lent was downgraded to a recommendation, giving Catholics the option of substituting some other form of penance. The practical result of these progressive relaxations of the Church’s penitential rules was that almost nobody fasted or abstained at all.

When the English bishops restored the law of Friday abstinence late in 2011, they acknowledged that the practice “cannot be considered to put any real or substantial additional burden on the lives of the faithful”. But they lamented that since the rule had been relaxed, a great many people had essentially forgotten about the need for penance altogether, and they said Friday abstinence had the virtues of being both “easy to remember” and “a simple way to give witness at work, at school, and even in the family.”

The bishops in the United States have not yet reinvented the old rules, but one cannot escape the feeling that they are about to do so. As soon as our bishops finally began to realize that the contemporary secular State is no friend of the Church, as evidenced by increasing threats to the Church’s autonomy and individual religious liberty, abstinence and fasting were put back on the stove top, even if still on a rear burner. These practices have been advocated repeatedly by the USCCB ever since the Fortnight for Freedom movement began in the Summer of 2012, in response to the HHS Contraception/Sterilization/Abortion Mandate.

Before that, the bishops had called for fasting and abstinence occasionally in support of the pro-life cause, but since the HHS threat, the call for fasting and abstinence on all Fridays has been more broadly associated with the right to life, religious liberty and the defense of marriage. This is not quite sackcloth and ashes, but I suspect it is our modern equivalent.

In America, however, this movement will not gather great force unless each bishop ensures that it is preached in every church in his diocese. As long as this is only another request by the USCCB, it will pass almost unnoticed. Nonetheless, there are clear signs of a trend, a trend toward exactly what the English bishops claimed that these renewed penitential practices could do. I am talking about a trend to emphasize a distinctive Catholic identity which by its very nature gives mutual witness to ourselves and to the larger culture.

It is my understanding that in Australia and especially in New Zealand, a handful of practices are currently specifically listed as penitential options for Fridays throughout the year. That’s better than a general exhortation, and I defer to the experience of readers in those countries, but I suspect that if the bishops want something to be done as a rule, they must impress it on our minds clearly, simply and without options, which have a way of ensuring that nothing actually gets done. Multiple options also severely limit the potential for solidarity, corporate identity, and a common recognizable witness.

For our own spiritual growth, more serious and more voluntary penance may well be called for, if we will only do it. But for building a sense of identity, for mutual encouragement and as a kind of baseline of public witness, Catholics do not necessarily need something onerous. They need something simple, visible, distinctive and habitual to the Catholic body as a whole. It is enough for ourselves that this something reminds us of our need for penance while being done in solidarity. It is enough for others that this peculiar Catholic solidarity will be frequently noticed. The law ought to serve as a stimulus in such matters. It is the beginning, not the end.

A Temptation

As someone who values Catholic esprit de corps, I can clearly see the benefits of this resurgence in abstinence and fasting, even though I would not regard simply keeping new (or old) rules as a proof of holiness. At the same time, I confess to a temptation. Every time I hear the USCCB emphasize fasting and abstinence now, I am tempted to scoff at their anemic efforts to salvage what, not too many years ago, they were so intent on destroying lest the Church be perceived as a sign of contradiction in the world.

Now I suspect I am not alone in this, but still, the more fool me. First of all, in most cases, the bishops in the various episcopal conferences today are not those who, in so many ways, rushed to sell the farm as quickly as they could. Second, rejecting episcopal calls to do the right thing because the bishops have so often done the wrong thing is a sin against the Holy Spirit. We ought never to refuse to recognize good because we prefer to hold its source in contempt. If I, as a layman, have been attempting to promote authentic Catholic renewal largely through the default of the bishops and clergy, does this make Catholic renewal my turf?

The plain fact is that I, like many serious Catholics, have become rather fond of making my own rules during long years of ecclesiastical chaos. What I should want, therefore, is for the American bishops to follow their English brethren in converting a few exhortations into rules just to give me an exercise in obedience. It may pinch a bit for me to do at the command of another what has for some time been voluntary. Let it pinch. It will take a long time for such practices to become broadly habitual again. Let it take time. Moreover, rules guarantee neither spiritual growth nor salvation. But just knowing that is already an antidote to a prescriptive, superficial Catholicism.

Anyway, you heard the prophecy here first. A strengthening of the laws of fast and abstinence is coming in the United States, and probably elsewhere, just as it has already come in England.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; current
Fasting and Abstinence really never disappeared. Groups of bishops did it -- So glad it is coming back.
1 posted on 04/12/2013 8:50:10 PM PDT by Salvation
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To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; marshmallow; ...

Fasting and Abstinence Ping!


2 posted on 04/12/2013 8:51:27 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All
BTTT!

Anyway, you heard the prophecy here first. A strengthening of the laws of fast and abstinence is coming in the United States, and probably elsewhere, just as it has already come in England.


3 posted on 04/12/2013 8:53:46 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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Comment #4 Removed by Moderator

To: lightman

Did not lose so much. I gave up bread - I had found the most delicious baguettes at Panera (6 a.m.) and decided I needed to get hold of this very bad habit. But on Sundays I feasted. About broke even.


5 posted on 04/12/2013 9:05:17 PM PDT by bboop (does not suffer fools gladly)
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To: lightman

I fasted from the three Cs.

Comparing

Complaining

Criticizing

Left me in a much better spirit throughout Lent.


6 posted on 04/12/2013 9:13:20 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

In the “old days,” Fridays were not fast days, but days of abstinence only. I’m surprised Mirus made such a mistake.


7 posted on 04/12/2013 10:34:41 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan (If you're FOR sticking scissors in a female's neck and sucking out her brains, you are PRO-WOMAN!)
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To: Salvation
In America, however, this movement will not gather great force unless each bishop ensures that it is preached in every church in his diocese.

I'm unable to tell you the last time abortion was mentioned in our parish!

8 posted on 04/12/2013 11:21:45 PM PDT by onyx (Please Support Free Republic - Donate Monthly! If you want on Sarah Palin's Ping List, Let Me know!)
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To: Arthur McGowan

If we go back to the apostles, though, and the Early Church Fathers, I believe Fridays were days of both fast and abstinence. Not sure, though.


9 posted on 04/12/2013 11:25:37 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: onyx

I would say that our priest mentions it abortion at least once every two weeks. But I attend Daily Mass.

He has mentioned it on Sundays, though, too.

And our new Archbishop did too, in his installation talk.


10 posted on 04/12/2013 11:27:21 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

My husband attends Daily Mass and he told me it’s been at least 2 years.


11 posted on 04/12/2013 11:29:49 PM PDT by onyx (Please Support Free Republic - Donate Monthly! If you want on Sarah Palin's Ping List, Let Me know!)
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To: onyx

The padres all talk very strongly pro-life at my parish, St. Paschal Baylon in Thousand Oaks, CA.


12 posted on 04/12/2013 11:48:58 PM PDT by karnage
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To: karnage

God bless them and you.


13 posted on 04/12/2013 11:51:01 PM PDT by onyx (Please Support Free Republic - Donate Monthly! If you want on Sarah Palin's Ping List, Let Me know!)
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To: onyx

Thanks. I’m blessed to have a great parish with great leadership provided by Fr. Dave Heney.


14 posted on 04/13/2013 12:20:05 AM PDT by karnage
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CHAPTER II : DAYS OF PENANCE

Can. 1249 All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his or her own way, to do penance. However, so that all may be joined together in a certain common practice of penance, days of penance are prescribed. On these days the faithful are in a special manner to devote themselves to prayer, to engage in works of piety and charity, and to deny themselves, by fulfilling their obligations more faithfully and especially by observing the fast and abstinence which the following canons prescribe.

Can. 1250 The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can. 1253 The Episcopal Conference can determine more particular ways in which fasting and abstinence are to be observed. In place of abstinence or fasting it can substitute, in whole or in part, other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

15 posted on 04/13/2013 12:37:42 AM PDT by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro can't pass E-verify)
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To: Salvation

I’m sorry, I live in England now. And I REFUSE abstinence on a Friday. [Unless in Lent.] It should be ONE RULE for EVERYONE. Not “the Mexicans get a pass because they are Spanish.” The Spanish speaking countries always got a total pass on this because the spanish won some battle against infidels zillions of years ago.

I was furious when I found out that some poor Appalachian was going to hell for eating a hot dog (well, okay, that’s what the nuns made it sound like) while some lard butt rich Mexican ranchero was free to chow down on all the steak he liked. ONE rule for everyone.


16 posted on 04/13/2013 2:52:10 AM PDT by gemoftheocean (...geez, this all seems so straight forward and logical to me...)
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To: Salvation

I was told a few years ago that during the Easter season, with the focus on the risen Christ you do not fast at all. Fasting takes place during Lent. Easter season is for feasting.


17 posted on 04/13/2013 3:07:23 AM PDT by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Salvation

bookmark


18 posted on 04/13/2013 4:06:30 AM PDT by GOP Poet
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To: lightman

Despite my best intentions, I always gain during this time of year. I have spring allergies. It’s always busy at work. I’m a stress eater. Weird, but when I don’t feel well, I eat lots of things that aren’t good for me. I’ll drop most of it as the weather improves and I can get back to walking 15-25 miles a week.


19 posted on 04/13/2013 5:07:19 AM PDT by Mercat (I'm loving this Pope)
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To: Salvation
Fasting and Abstinence really never disappeared. Groups of bishops did it -- So glad it is coming back.

As am I. I am doing what I can not only to practice it, but to inform Catholics that I interacts with. I've already pissed off all the liberals in my parish, so I'm not really doing any more damage there. I got into a discussion with one old liberal about my outrage of Gonzaga not allowing a KofC chapter on campus, and he was puzzled by my objection. To him, the whole deal of not allowing nonCatholics into a group was fine. Never mind the exclusivity of many of the liberal groups. No problem there.

But I've been taunting these types since BXVI was selected; now I've got even more ammunition.

20 posted on 04/13/2013 5:14:44 AM PDT by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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To: Arthur McGowan

I’ve always been somewhat suspicious of Mirus, but.... I don’t know why; its illogical. I just don’t trust something about him.


21 posted on 04/13/2013 6:31:51 AM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: Salvation

I would hope it comes back. I detect a definite movement toward the more traditional practices and Liturgy. Fr Z is an example of this. My theory is that as the necessary response to rid the seminaries of the pedophiles and perverts, the church has seriously tightened up on the admission policies at the Seminaries and has gone back to traditional training methods. Apparently, thats been very successful and the traditional practices are being worked back into the Mass protocols and sermons and liturgy. And....that is proving successful in filling the pews and RCIA classes. Our church has increased in size by a third in 3 years and our parish now has 5 young men in Seminary. It seems that as the Godless Commie Leftists push harder on their agenda, the Church is pushing back and in a manner of speaking its working. Oddly, my perception is that at the top, the Bishops for example and the UCCB remains wishy-washy and weak kneed. I don’t know why that’s the case.

One good side effect is that, as we’re hearing from Fr. Z and as I’ve heard from our Parish Priest, the move back to Orthodoxy has the CINOs squirming out the pews. Our Parish priest near quoted Fr. Z in saying, “Hey, you want gay marriage and female priests, there’s a church for you down the street with a sign that says Episcopal”.


22 posted on 04/13/2013 6:47:13 AM PDT by Rich21IE
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To: Rich21IE

AFAIK, he has an unblemished, sterling reputation.


23 posted on 04/13/2013 6:59:40 AM PDT by Arthur McGowan (If you're FOR sticking scissors in a female's neck and sucking out her brains, you are PRO-WOMAN!)
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To: gemoftheocean

Apparently, under the “Abstinence” rule, I can go out to dinner at Red Lobster, have a shrimp-cocktail appetizer, a lobster-and-king-crab dinner with a nice glass of wine, and chocolate cake dessert, and be in a state of grace.

Stay home and eat beans-and-franks, I’m a sinner.


24 posted on 04/13/2013 8:24:17 AM PDT by DuncanWaring (The Lord uses the good ones; the bad ones use the Lord.)
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To: DuncanWaring

The Lord will Judge the spirit of the adherence to the general discipline. It is up to Him, not us.


25 posted on 04/13/2013 1:17:59 PM PDT by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel, if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.)
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