A gaping hole has emerged in Catholic life with the disappearance of the Friday penance. The Catechism (§1438) and the Code of Canon Law teach us that every Friday is a day of penance in honor of Our Lord’s Passion (unless a solemnity falls on that day). The US Bishops in 1966 did not abolishthe Friday penance, but merely stated that the obligation to do penance was no longer on the pain of sin and another penance could be substituted for the abstinence of meat (although this abstinence remained the default penance). Catholics in most countries still observe meatless Fridays and there is a move to return it, including a relatively recent decision by the Bishops of England and Wales.
I’ve argued before that we need to make sure we are observing Friday as a day of penance in some way. If you’ve done Exodus 90, you may be looking for a way to keep up the spiritual disciplines you learned. If we do not live a life of penance, we are seriously weakening our spiritual life and the power of prayer, which Jesus Himself told us in Matthew 17:21 when he said the enemy could only be overcome by prayer and fasting. Laxity in following the times of penance hamstrings our spiritual growth and the efficacy of our prayers.
Part of the problem is that we lack focus in our fasting and penance.
It will be easier to do penance if, like Exodus 90, we join as a group of brothers and unite our prayer and fasting for an urgent cause!
Therefore, I propose that we, as TCM readers and Exodus 90 alum, join together in fasting and praying for the protection of life every Friday of the year. Would you join me in abstaining from meat and fasting according to the current Lenten rules (two small meals, one regular meal, and not eating between meals) and praying for at least half an hour?
We are facing a terrifying demon in our country that needs to be expelled in the destruction of millions of innocent lives—not only children, but now also the sick, handicapped, and elderly. The slaughter of innocent life cries out to God for justice, but also undermines the very integrity and foundation of our country. It’s heartening to see the efforts of so many in the pro-life movement and also the work of many legislators to combat this evil. And yet, the slaughter goes on. We have to ask ourselves in conscience, what we are doing to help stop this holocaust of our own people?
We need to do our part in defending innocent life in our country. The heart of any effort or response has to be prayer. Committing ourselves to prayer and penance will give spiritual power to this work and may dispose us to committing more time and effort to helping support those in need.
So I ask you again, will you join me in making every Friday a day of committed prayer and penance
to defend innocent life? We will be strengthening our own spiritual lives and working for the
renewal of our country. So what do you say?