Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

Unclear on the concept: dispensation from the Lenten fast

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Mar 16, 2012

In the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, some Catholics are looking for a dispensation from the Lenten rule of abstinence on Friday, so they can eat corned beef at St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Is there a different calendar for Fall River? Where I live, St. Patrick’s Day—March 17—falls on a Saturday this year.

Oh, I see: the dispensation is needed for St. Patrick's day weekend. The partying begins on Friday at noon, I suppose.

Tell me, how do you make the case for granting a dispensation to ignore the Lenten fast on a Friday because a saint’s feast is on Saturday, and to honor that saint you need to eat corned beef because…because…

Or does the argument go more like this: I need a dispensation from the Lenten fast because I’m throwing a party. Oh, well then; if you're going to be partying, of course you can't fast. So forget about the penitential season, and party like it's March 17. 

Sorry, but I don't understand the reasoning. Can somebody help me out here?


Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: imanxufan9901 - Mar. 17, 2012 4:15 PM ET USA

    I'm sure glad that I belong to that T word church. For all who claimed they have moved from that mentality I feel for you.

  • Posted by: Antigone - Mar. 17, 2012 3:11 PM ET USA

    Jimgrum, it's simple - St. Patrick's Day is on a Saturday and it's not an solemnity or a feast, so even if it were on a Friday, it's not a sufficient reason to ignore the Lenten fast. Your comment does not offer a counter-argument. All you can say is that this line of argument is "traditionalist" - as though that were inherently bad - but you cannot seem to even muster up a reason in favour of ditching the fast for a party on a Friday during Lent.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Mar. 17, 2012 12:05 AM ET USA

    I hope this is not too offensive- this line of arguing sounds like that of a traditionalist. Many have moved beyond this rigorist, legalistic and exclusivist mentality. However, it seems that others are increasingly, albeit somewhat unobtrusively, casting inquisitive glances to the past for answers. No, you probably can't be helped to understand the reasoning. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just make sure you keep your distance from that "t" word.

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Mar. 16, 2012 9:44 PM ET USA

    This is another Christian holiday that has been absconded by the secular world. People open up the pubs at 5am to start the drinking. The secular Christmas has become a feast of greed/envy. Who can get the 'best presents'. The secular St. Patrick's Day has become a feast of gluttony. Valentine's Day has become a festival of lust. The meaning of these days has become quite warped, which is quite sad honestly.

  • Posted by: polish.pinecone4371 - Mar. 16, 2012 5:10 PM ET USA

    Come now, Phil, that's easy, especially if you're Irish. Remember that St. Patrick, by his exhaustive 40 days of fast, penance and prayer on the mountain, won the concession that he would judge the Irish. Since he already did the fasting and penance, they don't have to do it themselves. And they don't want to have to face him and have him ask, "OK, so why did you wait until the 17th to start the party?" I mean, how embarrassing would that be?