Friday, March 17, 2006
Eating Meat on St. Patrick's Day?

Since St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent, it coincides with the traditional Lenten fast, which traditionally requires 40 days of fasting and abstinence from meat. Even in Ireland, where it is a Holy Day of Obligation, the fast and abstinence on Holy Days of Obligation are not abrogated in Lent without a specific dispensation. In fact, the Irish people kept the strictness of abstinence even from animal products during Lent longer than many other nations.

Yet the custom developed of such dispensations. With the growing number of Irish immigrants to America in the early 1800s, for instance, special attention was given to dispensing from the law of abstinence when St. Patrick's Day fell on a Friday. This was done for the members of the Charitable Irish Society of Boston in 1837 and would become customary in the United States. 

Several dioceses around the United States have granted Catholics dispensations so that they may eat meat today in honor of St. Patrick this year since St. Patrick's Day this year is on a Friday in Lent. However, some dioceses have not granted dispensations. 

The following dioceses have granted dispensations (not a complete list): Boston, MA Buffalo, NY Chicago, IL Cincinnati, OH Cleveland, OH Green Bay, WI Lincoln, NE Lansing, MI Erie, PA Arlington, TX Toledo, OH Phoenix, AZ The Washington Archdiocese Minneapolis & St Paul, MN Lexington, Kentucky Portland, OR Fall River MA Providence RI. 

The Dioceses of Denver, Miami, Harrisburg, Penn., and Sioux City said that abstaining from meat will still be required today.

15 comment(s):

del_button March 17, 2006 at 8:22 PM
Mairin :o) said...

Minneapolis & St Paul, MN also have the dispensation.

del_button March 17, 2006 at 10:02 PM
Matthew said...

Thanks! I'll add those to the list.

del_button March 18, 2006 at 9:47 AM
Anonymous said...

Portland, OR did too.

del_button March 18, 2006 at 10:12 AM
Darren said...

Lexington Diocese in KY has also given a dispensation, though I had tuna for dinner.

del_button March 18, 2006 at 11:03 AM
owenswain said...

Being Canadian I am not direct impacted by this decision but even if I were I am still a simple and novice enough Catholic to believe that I should follow the Scripture and Tradition as set out by the Church regardless of what clever bishops say and offer. It's fun to be such an amateur because I can do the right thing and still be forgiven. We had a nice tuna roll thingy.

del_button March 18, 2006 at 6:18 PM
Michael said...

Hello Horicon/Owen,

Here is the scriptural answer for your question.

It is a traditional doctrine of Christian spirituality that a constituent part of repentance, of turning away from sin and back to God, includes some form of penance, without which the Christian is unlikely to remain on the narrow path and be saved (Jer. 18:11, 25:5; Ez. 18:30, 33:11-15; Joel 2:12; Mt. 3:2; Mt. 4:17; Acts 2:38). Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). The general law of penance, therefore, is part of the law of God for man.
The Church has specified certain forms of penance, both to ensure that the Catholic will do something, as required by divine law, while making it easy for Catholics to fulfill the obligation. Thus, the 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies the obligations of Latin Rite Catholics [Eastern Rite Catholics have their own penitential practices as specified by the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches].

Canon 1250 All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.

Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Canon 1252 All persons who have completed their fourteenth year are bound by the law of abstinence; all adults are bound by the law of fast up to the beginning of their sixtieth year. Nevertheless, pastors and parents are to see to it that minors who are not bound by the law of fast and abstinence are educated in an authentic sense of penance.

Can. 1253 It is for the conference of bishops to determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence and to substitute in whole or in part for fast and abstinence other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety.

Neither was there originally less divergence regarding the nature of the fast. For example, the historian Socrates (Hist. Eccl., V, 22) tells of the practice of the fifth century: "Some abstain from every sort of creature that has life, while others of all the living creatures eat of fish only. Others eat birds as well as fish, because, according to the Mosaic account of the Creation, they too sprang from the water; others abstain from fruit covered by a hard shell and from eggs. Some eat dry bread only, others not even that; others again when they have fasted to the ninth hour (three o'clock) partake of various kinds of food". Amid this diversity some inclined to the extreme limits of rigor. Epiphanius, Palladius, and the author of the "Life of St. Melania the Younger" seem to contemplate a state of things in which ordinary Christians were expected to pass twenty-four hours or more without food of any kind, especially during Holy Week, while the more austere actually subsisted during part or the whole of Lent upon one or two meals a week (see Rampolla, "Vita di. S. Melania Giuniore", appendix xxv, p. 478). But the ordinary rule on fasting days was to take but one meal a day and that only in the evening, while meat and, in the early centuries, wine were entirely forbidden. During Holy Week, or at least on Good Friday it was common to enjoin the xerophagiæ, i.e., a diet of dry food, bread, salt, and vegetables.

According to Canon Law, all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday and several other days are days of abstinence, though in most countries, the strict requirement of abstinence have been limited by the bishops (in accordance with Canon 1253) to the Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday. On other abstinence days, the faithful are invited to perform some other act of penance.

If St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday, the prohibition against meat may be lifted for (or ignored by) Irish Catholics who wish to enjoy the traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage.

Fasting during Lent is a way for the Christian to identify with Jesus in his suffering which, according to the record in the New Testament Biblical writings known as the Gospels, he underwent for the sake of humans in order to make propitiation for their failure to keep the laws instituted by God in the Pentateuch. This sacrifice is referred to by Christians variously as a substitutionary death, a redemptive death, and a death that satisfied the perfect justice of God, who actually provided the means for the satisfaction by sending Jesus, said in the Bible to be God's own son, to die in place of humanity. It is this distinction that fulfills the Hebrews' hope for a messiah (Christ, in Greek) who would save the troubled nation, according to the New Testament writings.

Many modern Protestants and Anglicans consider the observation of Lent to be a choice, rather than an obligation. They may decide to give up a favorite food (e.g. chocolate) or activity (e.g. going to the movies) for Lent, or they may instead decide to take on a Lenten discipline such as devotions, volunteering for charity work, and so forth.

As an Actof Penance, we Catholics fast during this month of lent. Our Lord died for our sins, the least that we can dois offer something up to him. He spent 40 days in the dessert fasting, we can give something up and also abstain from meat for one day a week.

del_button March 19, 2006 at 4:02 PM
Brian Michael Page said...

Also Fall River MA, and my own diocese Providence RI.

del_button March 19, 2006 at 4:52 PM
Matthew said...

Horicon: The Catholics that i know, either do not fast, or fast for thier own benefit, not because they have to.

ME: How truly, truly sad. That's not the case where I'm from. We fast and pray and follow the Holy Church of Our Lord. There are so-called "Catholics" that do not follow all of the Church's firm requirements. Don't look to these people for an example of anything other than hypocrisy. Catholics are called to follow and serve the Lord - that's it. And in order to do this we have this special time of Lent to fast and pray.

del_button March 19, 2006 at 7:26 PM
Michael said...

Hey Horicon,

Jesus stated here as I have already said up above that his apostles were going to fast once he left them.

Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35)

You said that you will not fast.. why is that? You said because of the Temptation... are you that weak in spirit that you don't trust yourself to divine providence, and the grace that you recieve when you mortify yourself? Or rather is it that you feel that you will let your left hand know what you are doing? Are you afraid that you are going to brag about it to other people? That is sad that you know of Catholics that brag about it. For God said that those people will recieve their reward here on earth and the people that don;t talk about it and offer up they pains and suffering will have a greated reward in heaven. The last shall come first and the first shall come last. I fast and mortify myself as an act of penance, yes for me sins, and yours. I offer up my sufferings for the souls in Purgatory, I offer them up for the heresies and the bad people in the world. I ask God to forgive them and I ask him to give the benefits of my sufferings to those that need it most. As St. Therese would say, I offer my little way. I am not bragging to you of what I do, I do not want to sound like the publican in the temple. I am only stating to you why I do penance and why I mortify myself. If I want to recieve remission of my sins, then I will go to confession, that is the best way to find true forgiveness from God. Offering up something to God, and giving up something that you greatly desire is a whole different thing in its motive towards grace from God and repentance.

I challenge you as a christian brother/sister in Christ to try to give something up to God that you love. And give it up to him with true joy.. see the benfits that you will recieve and the graces... oh the graces!


del_button March 20, 2006 at 3:40 PM
Matthew said...


I just had a long reply to you, but my computer froze and I lost everything.

Here's another reply, but it's no where near the same.

YOU: in Luke 5:35, Jesus does not command his disciples to fast, but says they will. In and out of itself, i do not believe there is anything wrong with fasting, especially with all the benefits that you stated in your post. However, to make it a requirement.

ME: Being a Catholic Christian means one thing - being as close to Jesus as possible. Don't look to some Catholics for examples that support abortion, only go to Mass when they feel like it, etc. Being a Catholic means following Jesus and his teachings and examples, and Jesus fasted.

Jesus didn't have to fast though to get closer to God because He is God. Why then would the Gospels say that Jesus would go away and fast and pray for hours? Because He was showing us and his disciples the importance of fasting. He didn't have to say "I tell you to fast" because He was showing us in His divine example.

YOU: For me, faith is simple. I do not have to do anything to earn my salvation, because Jesus has already dealt with that. But the repentence, confession, and good works that i do are a direct result of my faith. Not because i have to do them. Because i don't Have to do them to get into heaven.

ME: Jesus didn't say "Look at Me carrying your cross for you." He said, "Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me." Jesus calls for each of us to follow Him on our way of the cross. And what did Jesus do along the way - he comforted the women of Jerusalem. We are called to follow Jesus and perform works of mercy and love our neighbors as ourselves.

We are called to action because of our faith. As St Paul clearly states in James 2:12-26, faith and works are inseperable. Without works we certainly don't have faith. That is, of course, if we can do works and we don't. If we were crippled, hurt, sick, or only confessed the faith at the hour of death we of course wouldn't be bound by works. However, to be a Christian and not believe in the importance of works is impossible. St. Paul, again, is very, very clear.

del_button March 21, 2006 at 8:39 AM
Ginny said...

Friday's traditionally have always been a fast fom meat. I will uphold this tradition regardless of the excuses they keep trying to set forth.It really shouldn't be such an infatuation with folks. Just have the Corned Beef and cabbage the next day. That's what we did. It isn't so difficult. I wish other things were this easy.

del_button January 20, 2017 at 12:10 AM
Anonymous said...

My brother and I planning to be in Butte Montana for st. Patty's Day. If are from diocese that will allow us to eat corned beef on Friday March 17th of this year which is st. Patrick's Day you must comply with where we're from or where we are?

del_button January 21, 2017 at 7:11 PM
Matthew said...

Even if a dispensation is granted, we already do so little penance. Lent used to be fasting for 40 days and no meat for 40 days. Nowadays, it is nothing and a shell of its former shelf. It's better that we abstain on St. Patrick's Day when it is on a Friday in a diocese with a dispensation and do so in true reparation for sin.

del_button February 26, 2017 at 9:13 AM
Unknown said...

I am confused ...If individual bishops can decide whether it's OK to eat meat on St. Patrick's day which falls on a Friday this year what is to say that other rules of the church are also interpreted as to whether they need to be followed or not. Why not no meat for everyone or everyone can eat meat. We wonder why Catholics get mixed messages and others wonder about us.

del_button March 11, 2017 at 3:35 PM
Matthew said...

Steve, certain matters are left up to the ability of the bishops - matters which generally concern outward practices and not theology.

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