Public service announcement for Roman Catholics: Sunday is not a fast day

At dinner yesterday, I mentioned how I felt ripped off when I eventually learned that the Lenten fast does not apply to Sunday. If you give up, say, chocolate for Lent, you are not held to that obligation on Sundays. Those who are mathematically inclined would have noticed that something was up: Lent is forty days long, yet if you count backwards forty days from Easter Sunday, you don't get Ash Wednesday. To hit Ash Wednesday, you have to skip over the Sundays. Hm...

When I related this little anecdote, the head of one of the other people at dinner perked up. Apparently, he didn't know about this rule at all! His parents had withheld this information from him all these years. "I'm going to make sure to bring this up the next time I talk to them."

I was also disappointed that people were angling for (and received!) dispensations from the Lenten fast on St. Patrick's Day. (At least it didn't work when baseball's opening day fell on a Friday.) My attitude is that if you're going to be a member of a religion, then don't go looking around for loopholes. "Yeah, I'm a member of XYZ religion, except for the parts that cramp my style." If you don't like the rules of your religion, then try to change them or go find some other religion that's more compatible with your lifestyle.

(Raymond braces for the onslaught of flames now that he's touched on a religious topic.)

Comments (46)
  1. Jimbo says:

    "If you don’t like the rules of your religion, then try to change them…"

    Isn’t getting a special dispensation for St patricks day following the rules?  Sounds to me like the rules were followed.

  2. richard says:

    I’ve always known this (or rather, as far as I am aware, I’ve always known this).

    I think it is each individuals responsibility to ensure they are informed – not wait for someone to hand it down to them.

    Sunday, in liturgically based Christian religions, has always been a day free of penance.

    But, in any case, it think it is just easier to continue the penance through Sundays on Lent than than wait in anticipation for the loophole – since I think that detracts from the spirit of it.

  3. uber says:

    Just mention that you think that Linux or Macs are better if you want some real flames.

  4. Rick Scott says:

    So if someone believes a lot of what catholicism has to say, yet disagrees with one point, they ought drop catholicism altogether?

    I’m glad you aren’t the pope o_O;

  5. Paul Querna says:

    I don’t think you understand Catholics at all.

  6. Carlos says:

    The meat thing is just a tradition, not a rule.  That is, one is not obliged (as a good Catholic) to follow it.

    Here in the UK the Catholic tradition is you don’t eat meat on any Friday, not just during Lent.  But being traditional rather than doctrinal it’s the sort of thing that can differ across the world.

  7. Brian says:

    There was always one little point I disagreed with in every religion, so I started my own.

  8. The special dispensation has existed for St. Patrick’s day for quite a while, at least in Ireland itself. That said, people tend to eat fish if it falls on a Friday anyway. The only thing that Irish catholics do that they wouldn’t otherwise do is to go to the pub for a few hours, which is allowed on a feast day. However, it only became legal to do so in the ’70s.

    One little confusion I’ve noticed on the lead-up to St. Patrick’s Day this year was that Americans seem to think that we eat corned beef here and that it’s one of our national dishes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Corned beef is and Irish-American thing. Immigrants were unable to get ahold of a proper bacon joint, so they substituted it with corned beef.

    Our national dish is, in fact, Bacon and Cabbage. The very concept of corned beef would have been anathema to most Irish people up until the 20th century.

  9. kbiel says:

    >I was also disappointed that people were angling for (and received!) dispensations from the Lenten fast on St. Patrick’s Day.

    If you aren’t Catholic then why should it bother you?

    If you are Catholic then why should it bother you what some other believer wants if it has no effect on your condition?

    (Seriously, I’m not being snotty or idignant.  I would like to know why it matters to you.)

  10. anonymous coward says:

    Raymond, if you really want to show your balls, talk about islam :)

  11. Peter Ritchie says:

    Hmmm, I think the flames have begun!  Picking and choosing what is important and what is less important (to you) is the hallmark of religion.  Without that interpertation you get Science.

  12. Tad says:

    Thats one of the things I’ve always found curious about being Catholic.  It goes right along with the fact that you aren’t obligated to attend mass on certain <a href="">Holy Days of Obligation</a> if those days happen to fall on Saturday or Monday.

  13. Thomas says:

    I like your comment about "cramping my style" or "looking for loopholes".  Too true.  Our society is so "me" focused that we wouldn’t want anything external to ourselves to "force" itself on us.  Can you believe that an existent God would actually have some expectation of us?  That we would actually be…ut-oh…accountable to Him?

  14. Mike says:


    I just want to say as a RC, I completely agree with your disappointment on St. Patrick’s Day. I was in one of the Dioceses that awarded the dispensations. Needless to say, I didn’t participate, just had another lenten friday as usual. In the grand scheme of things, its really a "who cares" kind of day. :)

  15. Brian Duffy says:

    I want to know whether vi or Emacs is the one true text editor for Catholic Unix users.

  16. Tom Clancy says:

    Note, for the record, the sacrifice made in your linked post directly led to a World Series victory.

  17. SuperBK says:

    On Ash Wednesday our preist say "God doesn’t care so much that you give up chocolate for Lent, he wants you to be nice to each other".

  18. andrew says:

    I don’t get the whole RC thing. Isn’t something either a sin or not a sin? How can killing someone and burying them in a shallow grave be a sin 7 days a week, but eating meat only be a sin on certain Fridays?

    I don’t imagine that God is this inconsistent.

  19. mike says:

    Inconsistencies?  Catholicism?  What?

  20. tsrblke says:


    As I recall, being the good Roman Catholic that I am, the idea of a Lenten Sacrifice is more of a traditional suggestion than Canon Law.  Some people don’t make sacrifices during let (Abstaining Fridays aside) others do a resolution, exercise more, lose weight, ect.  The "Not required to follow on Sunday" thing was something I hadn’t heard until I was 12.  (And for the record I’m only 21.)  It’s one of those addendums to tradition you hear about all the time.  Lent is more symbolism than anything else and that must be taken into account.

    While there is the "Canon" that is to be followed, other things (such as fasting) are left to the individual.  Who is to say I /can’t/ fast on Sundays after all?

    But that’s neither here nor there.

    As for the dispensation on St. Pat’s Day, I also find that just a bit repugnant.  But hey, people probably were going to just ignore it anyway, and it doesn’t truely affect me.  Because of this, I just don’t care.

  21. Cooney says:

    I don’t imagine that God is this inconsistent.

    "Leave it to the catholics to undo existence"

  22. but eating meat only be a sin on certain Fridays?

    It’s not a sin. It’s something that you’re encouraged to do as a demonstration of faith. The whole being-nice-to-one-another thing, now <em>that</em>’s an obligation.

  23. :: Wendy :: says:

    Peter Ritchie wrote:

    "Picking and choosing what is important and what is less important (to you) is the hallmark of religion.  Without that interpertation you get Science. ‘

    The scientist chooses what to point their microscope at…  …values,  belief and serendipity play a highly significant strategice role.  Science is not a uniform singularity that is always interpretted and used in the same way…  (I believe ;-) )

  24. njkayaker says:

    "The scientist chooses what to point their microscope at…  …values,  belief and serendipity play a highly significant strategice role.  Science is not a uniform singularity that is always interpretted and used in the same way…  "

    True, but science tends to work in spite of that! Ultimately, the microscope will get pointed at everything and science does not (given enough time) indicate that you can’t point it at some particular thing.

    Scientists are human, with all of the characteristic biases and irrationalities, but religion fixes bias and irrationality at its core and science does not.

  25. James O says:

    Actually, the Canon law (church doctrine) says Catholics should abstain from meat on all Fridays, not just those in lent.

    However, Episcopal Conferences have determined that other forms of penance can be offered on Fridays instead of no meat.

    You can read a little more detail here:

  26. Gabe says:

    Not being Christian, I never understood why our school cafeteria always served fish every Friday. Then I learned that it was because Catholics weren’t supposed to eat meat on Fridays. Then I was even more confused because my definition of "meat" includes fish.

    So what is the definition of "meat" and why did anybody ever restrict its usage on Fridays?

  27. Nick Lassonde says:

    There’s a good discussion about the entire thing with some history of why’s and what’s available here:

    The basic idea is to set limits upon yourself to prove that you’re in control of your body, and not the other way around. Of course, if you have to eat meat on Mar. 17, then are you really in control…?

  28. Chris says:

    My attitude is that if you’re going to be a

    > member of a religion, then don’t go looking

    > around for loopholes.

    Heck whole religions are build around loopholes!  The Protestants didn’t like the catholic rules for example so they just cooked up their own version.  Right?  So basically, if you are into loopholes, I think that there are plenty of faiths that are into that sort of thing.

    I say whatever works – go for it!

  29. Daryl Oidy says:

    Hell, if you want to talk about loopholes, let’s get to the real issue, and look at the number of annulments they give out in the American dioceses.

  30. Jonathan O'Connor says:

    Raymond, seeing that you are writing about food and religion, it seems appropriate to mention that in Ireland most catholics are "ala carte" Catholics who pick and choose which rules and commandments to obey (mostly the sexual activity ones).

  31. Iain says:

    I want to know whether vi or Emacs is the one

    >true text editor for Catholic Unix users.

    Neither.  Reacl Catholics use TECO.

  32. another anonymous coward says:

    If you want some real flames, talk about the skunk-works Microsoft Linux project…

  33. Tim says:

    My imaginary invisible guy in the sky can beat up your imaginary invisible guy in the sky.

    Bacteria and Religion have one thing in common:  They are both responsible for more human deaths than any other source.

  34. Brian Kemp says:

    I just gave up Catholocism for Lent one year.

    The end result was sorta like freeing your only pointer to the head of a singly linked list.

  35. Nan Hadley says:

    My husband forwarded this link to me and I just cannot help but respond.

    The reason that there is no fasting or abstaining on Sundays even during lent is because this is our day of the week to celebrate with God and remember Him in worship and praise.  It would seem contradictory to enforce days of penance on a day that we celebrate with God.  Many Catholics choose to maintain the penance on Sunday as a sort of “extra-credit” for their self discipline, I applaud their efforts.  In today’s world a little extra self discipline is a nice change.

    St. Patrick’s Day is sort of the same deal.  St. Patrick’s Day is a feast day for St. Patrick and to do penance during a celebration seems odd.  The Boston Archdiocese gave dispensation for this feast day because St. Patrick is our patron saint.  The general thought is that there are not very many days that people are very proud to be Catholic and demonstrate it publicly.  To enforce a day of penance that would ruin the festivities of such a public display of Catholic pride seems counter intuitive.

    I tried not to bore everyone with the specific cannons and paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Sorry if I got a little preachy, it’s an occupational habit.

    Nan Hadley

    Parish Secretary

  36. Dewi Morgan says:

    How cool to get an authoritative (canonical? :) answer like that.

  37. Cheong says:

    There’s always maze of this, is it more important to have a religion that suits my liftstyle, or have my lifestyle be changed to suit the religion?

    IMO, if your religion can be changed because of difficulty to your lifestyle, I can hardly believe it’s your real religion at all.

    I’d rather believe in what I believe, for the "rules", if I tried my best but still can’t make it, I’d choose to left it out.

    For example, if I believe in Catholics, but in my occupation I cannot truly follow the "rest day" in Sunday, I’ll try to go to church in the morning, and work if I need in the afternoon. You may blame me to be a not-faithful believer in that religion, but I think the God will understand. :)

    Disclamer: I’m currently not a believer of any religion, the above is just a role-playing only.

  38. :: Wendy :: says:

    Religion,   like science as a tool for structured reflection on ‘being’ ‘values and understanding?  For the growth and development… …maybe…  

  39. julie:) says:

    I like Tim’s comment about bacteria and religion being responsible for more human deaths than any other source.  Fits in with all the Grail/Crusade and vampirism-as-a-STD stories I’ve been reading lately.  Yay death!

  40. Kevin Buckley says:

    How Corned Beef and Cabbage became traditional for St. Patricks Day.  

    I used to wonder about this until I had tried both.  In Ireland corned beef typically comes out of a can – kinda like a form of spam.

    However American Corned Beef tastes similiar to the Ham/Bacon traditionally served with Cabbage in Ireland.  

    I imagine that Irish immigrants were unable to get the Ham/Bacon that they were used to – so they substituted the closest flavour they could find.  

  41. Rob Stevenson says:

     Being Orthodox myself, I can comment in part on your post, although our situation is a bit different.  During Lent, although Sundays are considered Lenten, there is a lightening of the fast in celebration of the weekly celebration of the Resurrection, it’s not inconsistent, that’s part of what feast days are.  The lightening of the fast on other feast days also occurs with other big feast days (Annunciation, for instance).  For that reason, I’m quite surprised that St Patrick’s day is not actually a prime feast day, so I don’t know what to make of it there.

     Fasting is not really a comment on the worth of food, but is really a self-discipline, and in this particular case, we try to adhere to what the Church says, saying "no" to ourselves and our own desires, because, frequently, the worst thing we can do is get everything we wish.  The sin, I think, is not that eating a hot dog is inherently evil, but that we are choosing to ignore what the Church says and so set ourselves up to dangerous precedents — implicitly stating that "my desire for hot-dogs/chocolate/whatever is more important than anything else".  Umm, yes, this is a problem and the fruit of caving into these little desires has caused misery.  If we can cave into little things like food, what happens with the big things, such as desiring somebody else’s wife, goods, money, etc?

     Of course, having said this, we are not robots and sometimes we’re simply weak.  The Church does not claim to make saints in a day.

     Finally, a word of caution.  Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth.

         With kindest regards in this holy season…

  42. ebattalio says:

    Are dispensations retroactive? As George Carlin said, "I’ll bet there are still guys in Limbo doing time on the meat rap."

  43. sleepsleep says:

    some people think, if i follow this religion, i would be a goon man.

    some people think, i could only follow the religion when someday i become a good man.

    wat is religion, what is lifestyle? if one put religion higher than lifestyle, they don’t need a lifestyle anymore, so as reverse.

  44. Lance Fisher says:

    Tim and Julie, the greatest atrocity of the twentieth century was not caused by "religion."  Furthermore, when someone justifies something horrible in the name of a certain religion the religion is usually distorted to suit their desires.  The holocoust, however, was not morally incompatible with atheism.

    The idea of picking a religion to suit your lifestyle seems somewhat backwards to me.  Shouldn’t you search for the truth and alter your lifestyle accordingly?

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