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Dan wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a 26 year old, living in Medford, Massachusetts. I was raised in a mildly religious home,
but have actively tried to be a better Catholic over the last three or four years.

I have had the good fortune of being invited out to dinner with friends tomorrow evening to participate in Boston's Restaurant Week. Looking at the menu for tomorrow evening's special discounted offerings, I see that each entree option includes meat.

Intending to continue sacrificing meat each Friday, I called the restaurant and asked if it would be possible to omit the bacon from the salmon dish. The restaurant said they could exclude the chunks of bacon from the meal but that the lentils would still be cooked using bacon products.
I don't know if just excluding those chunks:

  • satisfies my Lenten obligation or
  • if I should either:
    • request a different side or
    • graciously decline the invitation to dinner?

I expressed my concerns with my friend. She asked her priest because she also noticed all the options have meat of some kind in them. He replied that it is the feast of St. Patrick so the abstinence from meat obligation doesn't apply tomorrow.

If you could provide any insight, it would put my mind at ease. If I do not hear back from you before dinner, I will likely request a special side for my meal or decline the invitation to be on the safe side. Nevertheless, the response from my friend about the Feast of St. Patrick being an exception for this Friday is a topic that interests me beyond this one meal.

I have never heard about this before.

Thank you for your help!


  { If I abstain, is a little meat OK and is the Feast of St. Patrick an exception for Lenten Fridays? }

Mary Ann replied:

Hi, Dan —

The new abstinence practice is not quite so microscopic as the last.

Abstain from meat and meat products, but one doesn't need to worry about the tiny things one cannot control, such as bacon flavor, bone broth, possible chicken broth, etc.

And, yes, it is traditional to be dispensed from abstinence on St. Patrick's, but that was Wednesday this year!

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Hi, Dan —

You live near a couple of us so perhaps you might like to get together sometime. The Archdiocese also has a number of young adult groups you should try to hook up with.

Anyway, about your question.

It is OK to eat something cooked in bacon fat (or other meat fat) so long as it contains no flesh.
If there is meat in the lentil dish that's a problem but if it's just drippings, bouillon, or fat, it's OK.

With respect to St. Patrick's Day, it is true that when St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday, the archbishop routinely dispenses from the obligation to abstain from meat. This does not apply this year, as far as I know, seeing that St. Patrick's Day does not fall on a Friday.  I see no announcement on the archdiocesan web site mentioning the dispensation. You are free to call them at (617) 254-0100 to confirm this one way or the other.

My recommendation, if push comes to shove, is to say you'd like a vegetarian meal. I suspect they'll respect that fairly readily. If they can't, and there really isn't enough to eat, you could try
to obtain a dispensation from your pastor, or just renege.


Eric followed-up:

Dan —

According to canon lawyer Ed Peters, you're off the hook because this Friday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph:

No dispensation for this Friday (St. Joseph) is needed

I thought of this yesterday but, having revisited this numerous times, I sincerely thought that it had to be a day of obligation to apply (which it isn't), but if a respected canon lawyer says so,
I'll accept it.

So eat what you want.

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