WASHINGTON, D.C. (CNS) — When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday, as it does about every seven years, the Lenten rule requiring Catholics to abstain from meat on Fridays collides with the long-held tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage.
The two occasions meet this year. March 17 marks the celebration of St. Patrick — known as the Apostle of Ireland for his years of missionary work there — and it also is a celebration of all things Irish and even green. The timing has not gone unnoticed by some U.S. bishops. However, a dispensation is not the case in the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
“In honor of the heroic virtue and sacrifice of St. Patrick in his life as a disciple, we will not be granting a dispensation from abstinence from eating meat on Friday, March 17,” wrote Msgr. David Hoefler, diocesan vicar general in a February letter to the faithful. “Instead I encourage honoring him, and Almighty God, with the sacrifice of abstinence from eating meat.”
For those dioceses where a dispensation has been granted, it does not take Catholics totally off the hook. Many bishops advised Catholics over age 14, who are required to abstain from meat on Friday, to do an extra act of charity or penance in exchange for eating meat. Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, took it a step further. In a statement, he said Catholics should also “exercise due moderation and temperance in festivities and celebrations of the memorial of St. Patrick, in keeping with the solemnity and honor that is due to so great a saint and his tireless efforts to inspire holiness in the Christian faithful.”