From Friday, 16th September 2011 Catholics are to return to the ancient practice of abstaining from meat on all Fridays throughout the year, as a simple but profound act of penance. By the practice of penance every Catholic identifies with Christ in His death on the Cross. We do so in prayer, through uniting the sufferings and sacrifices in our lives with those of Christ’s Passion; in fasting, by dying to self in order to be close to Christ; and in almsgiving, by demonstrating our solidarity with the sufferings of Christ in those in need.
All three forms of penance form a vital part of Christian living. When this is visible in the public arena, then it is also an important act of witness. Every Friday is set aside by the Church as a special day of penance, for it is the day of the death of Our Lord.
“The English Bishops wish to re-establish the practice of Friday penance in the lives of the Faithful as a clear and distinctive mark of their own Catholic identity. They recognise that the best habits are those which are acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness. It is important that all the Faithful be united in a common celebration of Friday penance.”
Thus, they have decided to re-establish the practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays.
The Church teaches that all people are once again obliged by God to perform some penance for their sins, and that these acts of penance are both personal and corporate. The purpose of fasting is spiritual focus, self discipline, imitation of Christ, and performing penance. During Lent, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, both abstinence and fasting are required of the faithful.
Those who do not eat meat as part of their normal diet should abstain from some other food of which they regularly partake.
“Many may wish to go beyond this simple act of common witness and mark each Friday with a time of prayer and further self-sacrifice. In all these ways we unite our sacrifices to the Sacrifice of Christ, who gave up His very life for our salvation.”