Keeping Friday

Thursday, September 28 2006
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In accordance with the prescriptions of canon 1253, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decrees that the days of fast and abstinence in Canada are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fridays are days of abstinence, but Catholics can substitute special acts of charity or piety on this day

Called to Penance

Our Lord: Jesus invited us to follow him by carrying our cross with him each day (Luke 9.23). He indicated that his followers would fast and do penance after he returned to heaven (Luke 5.33 35). We are to go hungry and thirsty for the sake of justice (Matthew 5.6) and to do our praying, fasting and almsgiving without showing off (Matthew 6.1 6, 16 17).

Christians: From the earliest centuries, Jesus’ followers have tried to follow these commands. Since it was on a Friday that Jesus freely died to save us from our sins, believers made a special effort to do some form of penance on this day: going without food for most of the day, spending extra time in prayer, doing good works, refraining from eating meat. Like St. Paul, they wanted to offer their penances for Christ’s body, the Church (Colossians 1.24).

In today’s Church: Over the centuries, these forms of penance have varied, and sometimes have been neglected. Today, we are being invited once more to obey our saviour: we are to do penance for our sins and those of others, for the people of God, for peace in the world, and for the building up of God’s kingdom on earth.

When we were baptized, we were made sharers in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. By our penance, we share with Jesus in his work of saving the world. We continue to die with him to sin and self, and to live with him for God.

For everyone: All who believe in Christ—young and old, sick and healthy, lay and religious—are invited to make Friday a special day. It is a day when we seek to share more fully in Christ’s sufferings, and to work with him to help save the world by our prayer, penance, and good works.

A Day of Penance

Doing penance is not a form of self punishment, or an unhealthy desire to inflict pain on ourselves. Rather, we do penance in order to discipline ourselves (1 Corinthians 9.24 27) and to live in union with Jesus who suffered to save the world. We offer our penitential actions in obedience to the gospel commands, so that our Lord may purify our love for him and make us stronger in the service of God and the people of God. We freely offer our penances to help make up for sin in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Different kinds of penance: There are various types of penance that we can offer to our God:

Jesus is asking each of us to choose one or two of these forms of penance, and to do them at least each Friday, so that we may be one with him in giving honour to God and in working to save the world.

What form of penance will I begin to do this Friday and every Friday from now on?

A Day of Good Works

We are called to do good works every day. On Friday we may do them to thank Jesus for suffering and dying on the cross for us.

We may offer any of these good works for our penances on Friday.

Friday in Our Homes

For Friday to come alive once more as a day of penance and good works, it must be kept in our homes. Parents and children, adults living alone, students and teachers, clergy and religious: all of us are invited to listen to Jesus’ invitation to carry the cross and to do penance for the good of the Church and the world.

Acts of penance: We can do at least one of these good actions each Friday:

When each Christian home keeps Friday as a day of prayer and penance, the whole believing community carries on the saving work of the Lord Jesus in our time. If we are generous, we may wish to do more for our Lord and his Church, and do some penance and some good work every week on the day when he died to bring us life.

Other days for penance: As well as Fridays, we observe Ash Wednesday and the weekdays of Lent as days of special penance. On Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the Church invites us to continue the ancient tradition of the paschal fast: we prepare by penance and prayer to renew our baptismal promises and to enter more fully into the joys of the Easter season.

Keeping Friday

The law of Friday abstinence obliges Catholics who are 14 years of age or older. Parents and pastors are to help younger children grow in their understanding of the meaning and practice of Christian penance.

On Good Friday, Jesus obeyed the Father’s will, obedient even to dying on the cross for us (Philippians 2.8). The Father raised him up and proclaimed him the king of glory.

Each day, God calls us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus as we live out the promise of our baptism.

Each Friday, we share in the Lord’s cross, learning to obey with him, joining in his death to sin and evil.

Each Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and our eventual victory with him.

Every Friday is a promise from God that we who are baptized will rise again with Christ. We suffer and carry our crosses now, but we will share in Jesus’ glory if we are faithful by his grace.

Lord Jesus, our brother,
we praise you for saving us
by dying on the cross
and by rising from the dead.

Help us to share
in your cross today,
and to come to glory with you,
for you are our Lord for ever. Amen!

Keeping Friday: Liturgical Leaflet, edited by the National Liturgy Office, and published by Publications Service, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2500 Don Reid Drive, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 2J2 Canada. Copyright © Concacan Inc., 1985, 2002. All rights reserved. This text may be reproduced for personal or parish use. For commercial licence, please contact the publisher.