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Diane James wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can you please tell me if it is right for a Catholic to go out wining and dining with a group of friends and work colleagues on a Friday evening during Lent?

I don't think so but my Catholic friend thinks it's OK. This problem arises every year and I thought I would seek clarification.

Thank you and best wishes,

Diane

  { Is it OK to go out and wine and dine with friends and work colleagues on Friday's during Lent? }

Mike replied:

Hi Diane,

Thanks for the question.

While there is no prohibition by the Church to "go out and wine and dine with friends and work colleagues on Friday's during Lent", to me, it is a bit inappropriate and sends the wrong message to the non-Catholic Christian and non-Christian world about our Catholic attitude toward Lent.

  • Why?

Because as the Catechism tells us:

CCC 1095 For this reason, the Church, especially during [Lent, like the other seasons of the liturgical year], re-reads and re-lives the great events of salvation history in the "today" of her liturgy.

CCC 1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).

CCC 540 By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

Personally, this is one area that I think Catholics in the pew have gone "ultra soft" on.

  1. What does the Church require during Lent?
  • To abstain from meat on all Fridays of Lent and on Ash Wednesday, and
  • to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

That's it! That's only an 8-day, required minimum, out of the 40 days of Lent!
That's only 20% of the Lenten season!

During the liturgical year, outside of Lent, we are also obliged to perform some type of penance every Friday of the year. We can abstain from meat, but we don't have to; it's an option.

Seeing there are 52 weeks in a year, this means out of 365 days (one year), the Church asks us to do penance: 53 days a year.

45 Fridays outside of Lent, plus
7 Fridays of Lent, plus
1 (Ash Wednesday)
equals 53 days a year. That's 14.5% of the year!

Again, though it doesn't witness to the faith we believe in, there's nothing stopping you and your friends from going out on a Friday of Lent to get-together, but we are obliged to follow the binding discipline of the Church and to abstain from eating meat on those Fridays of Lent.

Side notes:

  1. Sundays of Lent do not count as one of the forty days of Lent.
  2. Fish is healthier for you any way; that's what my doctor says : )

Hope this answers your question.

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi, Diane —

This is a prudential matter.

  • Are you necessarily sinning if you do this?

No, but as my colleague points out, Fridays, especially during Lent, are days of penance and prayer and ought to be lived as such if we are serious about our faith, In addition, it may be that having a raucous time partying hard, may not be consonant with that.

On the other hand, if it's an elegant dinner with business colleagues that you are expected to participate in, that's another matter. Of course, meat is verboten.

If it's the only night you have for a date with your spouse, then maybe you can bring something spiritual to reflect on and share some brief prayer time together.

It all depends on your conscience.

  • If whatever it is leads you towards Christ, or at least is neutral, then it may be OK.
  • If it leads you away from Christ, or away from the spirit of Lent (which is not so much "don't have fun" as taking an inventory of our sins and faults and addressing them), then maybe not.

There are no hard and fast rules.

Eric

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