Thursday, March 18, 2010


My pal Father Guy, over at Shouts in the Piazza, has a blog entry about an ecclesial eclipse that is set to take place tomorrow.

On March 19 each year (unless it's a Sunday, but that's for another blog entry), the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph. The Church ranks this as a Solemnity, the highest ranking for a feast day. The effects of a Solemnity will be noticeable: white vestments will be worn (and not Lenten purple), the Gloria will be sung or recited (which we lost during Lent), the Creed will be recited at a weekday Mass, and prayers proper for the feast day itself will be used (compared to the Lenten propers). This will give us, as it were, a day to "step out of Lent".

Where it gets interesting comes in the fact that, this year, the Feast falls on a Friday of Lent, which us normally a day of abstinence. As Fr. Guy points out in his blog, Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law says that when a Solemnity-ranked feast day falls on a Day of Abstinence, the Solemnity wins.

This means that, tomorrow, one does not have to abstain from meat, in honor of the Feast Day of Saint Joseph. In addition, if you have given up sweets as a Lenten sacrifice, you could indulge yourself a little bit tomorrow. As Fr. Guy's blog entry says, one may still choose to abstain, but one is not required to do so.

"But what about St. Patrick?", some of you ask. "Is this why we can eat corned beef on a Friday of Lent?" In a word, "no". The feast day of St. Patrick (like Sts. Casimir, Frances of Rome, John of God, today's Cyril of Jerusalem, et al.) does not rank as a Solemnity (for most places - I'm thinking that there are exceptions like New York and Harrisburg - whose Cathedrals are named for St. Patrick). Even the weekdays of Lent take precedence over the feast days of Saints, and this technically "downgrades" them from memorials to commemorations. This is why you rarely see anything outside of purple vestments during Lent (compared to Ordinary Time, when you see all the liturgical colors). It means that in the case of our American obsession with corned beef in honor of Ireland's own, a dispensation should be asked for and received by the local Bishop. Universal law does not allow you to do it, so it needs a relaxing of the law by the one who is able to do so for his flock. You're fine with the cabbage and potatoes.

So, yes, enjoy this moment when the Solemnity of St. Joseph (the
moon) blocks the Lenten
abstinence rules (the sunlight) from Catholics worldwide (the earth). Eclipses only come around once in a while, but they're worth checking out when they happen.

Thank God it's Friday (And a Solemnity)!

1 comment:

Arthur said...

Several years ago, I was attending daily Mass during Lent in my home parish here in Massachusetts and on St. Patrick's day, the Priest celebrated Mass wearing green vestments. During his brief homily, the Priest told us he was supposed to wear purple vestments because it was Lent, but decided to acknowledge St. Patrick by wearing green. He then asked us, jokingly, not to tell the Bishop what he had done. The Priest is still in our parish, so I assume everyone kept quiet about his transgression.