Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blessed St. Joseph, Husband of Mary

In a very few minutes the Feast of St. Joseph will start. Well actually, in a way it has already started, for anyone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours. This is because the Feast of St. Joseph is a Solemnity.
A Solemnity of the Roman Catholic Church is a principal holy day in the liturgical calendar. On a Solemnity prayers for the day begin at evening of the previous day, just as they do on Sunday. This is primarily because in ancient times (meaning before they had clocks) days started at sundown. We Catholics call this the vigil of the Feast.
So this evening was the Vigil of the Feast of St Joseph.Now most people know (at least those in the United States) that when St. Patrick's day falls on a Friday the local bishop will often dispense the faithful from the discipline of abstaining from meat on Friday. That's because green beer would just not be the same without a nice plate of corn beef. It is also because on St. Pat's day we celebrate the life of the Saint and you aren't doing much celebrating when you are engaged in penitential acts, like abstaining from meat.The bishops have to do this individually because the Feast of St. Patrick is not a Solemnity. It's just a plain old feast.
Now the Solemnity of St. Joseph is different. It is a major feast of the Universal Church. In Rome, where all ten Holy Days of Obligation are still celebrated, the Feast of St. Joseph is a Holy Day of Obligation. On such a day Catholics are not required to abstain from meat when it falls on a Friday. (For those paying attention, in Ireland St. Patrick's Feast Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, and so would not require special dispensation from the bishop when it falls on a Friday.) So the gist of this is that tomorrow, because it is a Solemnity you are not strictly required to abstain from meat. All other disciplines of Lent are still in force. So if you've given up broccoli for Lent I guess you'll have to have carrots instead with your steak.