I don't know about you, but I'm thrilled to hear about this (h/t The Deacon's Bench). The bishops of England and Wales have re-established the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays, something that will go into effect in the UK on Sept. 16, the one-year anniversary of the pope's visit there.
From the bishops' resolution, according to Zenit:
Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of our Lord," a statement of resolutions from the assembly reminded. "The law of the Church requires Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays, or some other form of food, or to observe some other form of penance laid down by the Bishops’ Conference."
"The Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity," the statement announced.
The prelates added that it is "important that all the faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance."
"Respectful of this, and in accordance with the mind of the whole Church, the Bishops’ Conference wishes to remind all Catholics in England and Wales of the obligation of Friday Penance. The Bishops have decided to re-establish the practice that this should be fulfilled by abstaining from meat," the resolution stated.
The prelates said those who do not eat meat normally should abstain from some other food on Fridays.
That last bit applies to people like me. As a vegetarian, I go vegan on days of abstinence. It can be a bit of a challenge cooking-wise, but it really makes me stop and think. Which is the point. A return to the no-meat-on-Fridays practice is a great idea, in my humble opinion. And not just because I don't like meat. Abstaining -- fasting from anything we really enjoy -- helps us open up a little more space for God and calls us back to our spiritual center.
Every time we go to reach for that favorite food we just can't have that day, our hearts and minds soften a little and we think of something, someone other than ourselves. During Lent, I opted to fast every Friday, and it really helped me focus spiritually. I thought I would continue the practice once Lent ended, but I find it much easier to slack off now. Just yesterday I started out the day saying I would fast, but lunch time came and, well, it's not like I have to do anything special this season, so I ate my normal lunch. Turns out I need that Church community, that spirit of solidarity, to help me progress as an individual on this sometimes-difficult spiritual journey. I don't think I'm alone.
I hope the U.S. follows suit and we a return to Friday abstinence down the road. What say you?