Reclaiming Catholic Identity, England and Wales Bring Back Meatless Fridays

I’ve written before that I think a return to mandatory meatless Fridays is a great idea.

The Catholic Church of England and Wales has officially returned to the practice:

The practice of abstaining from eating meat on Fridays has returned to the Catholic Church in England and Wales after an absence of 27 years.

… “Over the past 20 to 30 years we’ve perhaps lost touch with some of the more grounded Catholic practices and that, in turn, has chipped away at belief in more fundamental things too. So the restoration of this ancient Catholic tradition can help reverse that trend,” Schofield said.

The decision to reinstate the custom was announced by the bishops of England and Wales in May. September 16 was chosen as the reintroduction date because it marks the first anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s arrival in the United Kingdom.

The practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays was traditionally a way of remembering that Jesus Christ died on that day of the week. However, the Church in England and Wales abandoned the centuries-old custom back in 1984.

At the time, the bishops stressed that other forms of Friday penances were also acceptable. The result, though, seemed to be that the practice of Friday penance fell away altogether. [CNA]

A good anecdote about how meatless Fridays support Catholic identity and represent an easy manner of quiet (yet effective) Catholic witness:

The bishops also hope the custom will help draw others to the Catholic Church. In a statement earlier this month, they observed that “traditional Catholic devotions such as making the sign of the cross with care and reverence, praying the Angelus, saying a prayer before and after our meals, to name only a few,” can be “a powerful call to faith.”

“I’d agree,” says Dominic Schofield, “the decision by the bishops will have great apostolic value.

“For example, when somebody now asks ‘Do you have any special dietary requirements?’ we can now say, ‘Yes, I can’t eat meat on a Friday. I’m a Catholic!’”

In solidarity with our Brit Catholic friends, I’m not having meat this Friday. I invite you to do the same!



  • windowinthesky88

    This is great news, this does encourage me to pick back up my hopes of Meatless Fridays. I had decided this before Lent 2011 began. I did alright for the first few weeks, but then became ill and well, I fell off the track. Like I mentioned in my first sentence this does encourage me to go back to Meatless Fridays. Thank you for blogging this.

    God Bless,

  • John Drake

    Five Lents ago I decided to just continue Friday abstinence from meat year round, and now most of my family has joined me. It is a small but noticeable sacrifice which I offer for the intention of increased vocations to the priesthood.

    Try it! It feels Catholic!

  • Sandra Gray

    I wish the Holy Father introduced this worldwide for all Catholics, Our Lady has been asking us to do penenace and this is one thing we can do for her and the Church, I say all good Catholics should encourage this one to come back into operation, we have gone to lax,
    and need to get back to what Our Faith means to us.
    All for Jesus and Mary.

  • Davide

    Bravo for the Brits and Tom! For you meatless on Friday Virgins go for the fish tacos with cucumber and anchovies gravy (sauce) or a grilled peanut butter and honey on whole wheat sandwich with a dill pickle and potato chips (Pringles) all smashed together [my fav] —>Yummy! Beer (Red Stripe) chaser is encouraged (Americans over 21, Italians over 3).

    • Greg Smith

      Davide …. And to think a few weeks ago YOU were telling ME that the Italian restaurants in San Francisco weren’t that good. Personally I’ll take the Halibut Parmesan with red potatoes and salad with shrimp Louie dressing at Pacific Cafe along with a glass of Sonoma County Chardoney (33rd Avenue and Geary) ~ Pax ~ Greg

      • Davide

        Ya I’m weird

        • laura

          There’s nothing wrong with being weird, Davide. Life would be incredibly boring without the people who are a little….different. :-)

  • Kevin Bensema

    Persuading other Catholics to once again take on many of the traditional external signs of the Church is a wonderful thing – I fully agree with your closing. However, I would argue that making particular external signs mandatory is more traditionalism than tradition. Purely superficial symbols of the dead faith of the living will dilute the Christian witness. I love your intention, but this is an area for persuasion, not coercion.

    • Scott W.

      There are lots of things that are mandatory in Catholicism. Picking on this seems gratuitously argumentative.

    • Ryan Haber

      Just so. Yet, “mandatory” isn’t the same thing as “coercive”. In fact, almost the opposite. It is amazing how many people stay at the beach despite a mandatory evacuation order, in the face of a hurricane, precisely because there is no coercive force being exerted. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Church really doesn’t have very much coercive power left, does it?

      But all of us, banding together and saying, “Hey, we can do this for Jesus,” can only be a good thing. That’s what the bishops in England and Wales are asking for.

      We as laypeople can lead the way in this and other devotions. We don’t need to wait for our bishops to mandate them.

    • Everett

      To be fair, if I’m understanding correctly, all this is really just a re-emphasis on a practice that was already there. Meatless Fridays never went away, people just stopped doing penance on Fridays. As far as I know, if for whatever reason it is not possible to do meatless Fridays, you can subsitute another appropriate form of penance. What this really is doing is bringing back the awareness of penance as a part of everyday life. At some point I hope to return to this with my wife and children, but we aren’t there yet.

  • TAC

    Very timely, Thomas! Read Archbishop Dolan’s fantastic blog on this topic of external markers of our faith. He’s right on and so are the comments.



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