On Friday Penance again
Father Z has a post over a sort of debate published in the Catholic Herald and originated by the fact that (even!) the Bishops of E and W are now thinking about reinstating the practice.
I have written about the penance some time ago and will not repeat the argument. What I would like to stress here are the elements emerging from the discussion:
1) It is a very good sign that the Bishops of E and W (people who have a problem even with traditional days of obligation) are now thinking of reinstating Catholic traditions.
2) Personally I think that what they should do first is to a) reinstate the days of obligations and b) start to severely stress the Sunday Mass obligation.
3) I say this because if our hierarchy is not even able to request observance of Catholic rules when it is most important (Mass attendance), the request to reinstate traditional practices might – even if commendable in itself – sound hollow or, worse, fake. Particularly if it is accompanied by the usual self-flagellation meant to make one oh so accepted by the anti-Catholic public, as in “make penance on Friday to save the world from globaluormin“, or the like.
I am also against the argument that such a penance would be a small thing, or that in modern times it would have lost part of his meaning.
Catholicism is made, to a not little extent, of small things. They are what, brick by brick, builds the edifice of our salvation. To cross oneself when passing a church is a small thing, but it has been known to save souls. To say an Hail Mary or three is not a big sacrifice, but it causes joy in Heaven. A small act of contrition in the middle of the cares of our day is not a big thing in itself, but it is part of a habit and, as every Catholic should know, habits are very important in the economy of salvation.
As to the welfare argument, it might be argued that abstinence from meat on a Friday is more relevant today (when many people eat meat every day, so that to abstain from meat on a Friday requires a change of habit and the offering of a small sacrifice) than it was in days past (when the fewest people could afford to eat meat every day and therefore Friday abstinence was more a matter of planning than of sacrificing an otherwise affordable meat meal).
In general, it is very positive to see that old traditional Catholic practices are being, one by one, rediscovered. Personally, I think that the Bishops of E and W are not at the head of the movement, but merely following it.
Still, as long as they start to deliver I’ll not be the one to complain.