In honor of St. Patrick, Bishop McManus has added the Diocese of Worcester to the growing list of dioceses offering dispensation from the Lenten rule requiring Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays.
In a memo he said, “This year the Liturgical Memorial of St. Patrick, March 17, falls on a Friday of the Second Week of Lent, a day of abstinence. In light of the number of inquiries about my granting a dispensation from the requirement to refrain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent, I am granting a diocesan-wide dispensation from the law of abstinence… I would ask the Catholic faithful who take advantage of this general dispensation to perform another act of penance on either the day before or after…”
When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, as it does about every seven years, the Lenten rule requiring Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays collides with the long-held tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage. The two occasions meet this year. March 17 marks the celebration of St. Patrick — known as the Apostle of Ireland for his years of missionary work there — and it also is a celebration of all things Irish and even green.
Before Lent even started, many of bishops issued dispensations for Catholics in their dioceses allowing them to eat meat on St. Patrick’s Day. The dispensation does not take Catholics totally off the hook. Many bishops advised Catholics over age 14, who are required to abstain from meat on Friday, to do an extra act of charity or penance in exchange for eating meat.
Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, took it a step further. In a statement, he said Catholics should also “exercise due moderation and temperance in festivities and celebrations of the memorial of St. Patrick, in keeping with the solemnity and honor that is due to so great a saint and his tireless efforts to inspire holiness in the Christian faithful.”
He tempered that by also saying the day should “foster a joyful and reverent devotion to that great saint” and should also “honor the patrimony of the Irish people to whom he first preached the good news of salvation.”
As of Feb. 27, the following dioceses or archdioceses had announced giving the clear for Catholics to eat meat March 17: Baltimore; New York; Milwaukee; St. Paul and Minneapolis; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; Omaha, Nebraska; and Jefferson City, Missouri.