Catholics who are abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent get a pass on St. Patrick’s Day, sort of. Fr. Frank Coens of St. Paschal Catholic Church in West Monroe says giving up meat is a type of penance Catholics practice during the 40 day season between Mardi Gras and Easter. He says the St. Patrick’s Day exception dates back to an old Irish tradition.
“The St. Patrick’s Day tradition is to have corned beef and cabbage. So there’s meat right there that ordinarily would be the normal meal for the Irish family,” Coens said.
But Coens says it doesn’t just apply to Irish Catholics. He adds that while slipping up once isn’t considered sinful, it’s better to have a good reason for eating meat on a Friday during Lent. Unfortunately, having a hankering for a steak won’t cut it.
“The reason on St. Patrick’s Day is the celebration of the saint’s feast, and you would celebrate by eating meat. Just the craving of a Big Mac I don’t think is a good enough reason,” Coens said.
Coens says denying ourselves of certain things reminds us we need change in our lives, which is why Catholics practice different kinds of personal sacrifice during Lent. If you’re going to eat meat tomorrow, he recommends finding some other penance to do instead.
“If you’re eating meat on Friday, then find some other way, doing an act of charity, extra reading of the Bible, or some other practice that would substitute for the no meat on Friday,” Coens said.