By Father Marco Rangel
Special to The Texas Catholic
Abstaining from consuming meat and participating in penitential acts are for Catholics two practices that we usually associate with Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.
However, this is not an accurate view of what the church really asks us to do on this day of the week.
This reflection is more relevant now that the church is in crisis and it is in tune with what our leaders, from the Holy Father to our local bishops and pastors, called us to do: engaging in penance to ask God for the purification and relief of our church.
Did you know that the church teaches that every Friday of the year is penitential and we should observe some kind of mortification or penance? Why then do many of us not do it?
It mostly has to do with the fact that the church, emphasizes the maturity of each person and therefore let Catholics decide how to live their faith. In regards of Fridays of Lent, it only specifies the abstinence, but for the rest of the Fridays of the year the church offers recommendations and asks us to choose how to do penance. In other words the church continues to ask us to engage in penance every Friday of the year.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1438) states: “The seasons and days of penance in the course of the Liturgical year (Lent and every Friday in memory of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ), are intense moments of the penitential practice of the Church” .
So what other practices are recommended in the rest of the Fridays of the year to obey the church’s penitential call?
The Catechism mentions that these days “are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies and pilgrimages.”
But the church also calls for “voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and of course, works of charity and missionary work.”
Someone will ask if that penance responds to the commemoration of the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ on Good Friday and I can say that a large part is due to it.
However, we must also remember that the importance of our penance is related to our sinful nature. We know that we have sinned and we continue to fall into sin.
For this reason and recognizing that we have to ask for forgiveness and discipline our bodies with penance, the church guides us and teaches us to be better Christians.
Aware of our struggle against sin, I invite all Catholics to observe the Fridays of the year as penitential days and participate voluntarily and with faith in those practices recommended by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Father Marco Rangel is the pastor of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana.