The Catholic Community  of St. John Neumann
A Christian Church of the Catholic Tradition
Califon, NJ

Pastor's weekly Writing


Dear Friends,

        This Sunday is sandwiched between two major feasts – St. Patrick’s on 17th  and St. Joseph’s on 19th . We are entering the 5th week of Lent, and so, will Catholics, especially the Irish and the Italians, stick to the austerity of Lent and refrain from a lavish celebration of their cherished patronal days? No way! So, how does the Church look at these feasts during Lent?
                 On the feast of St. Patrick, the church focuses on the missionary nature of the life of St. Patrick who converted the Irish population to Catholicism in his 33 years of apostolate there. The Irish rightly brought his legacy to places they have settled. When his feast falls on a Friday of Lent, most dioceses give a dispensation for abstinence for meat. I remember once, during my ministry in New York Archdiocese, when St. Patrick’s day fell on a Friday of Lent, the then Archbishop of New York, Cardinal O’Connor, gave dispensation. But the neighboring Bishop of Brooklyn refused to give! So the NY Times had this to say: “Catholics of Brooklyn can eat meat this Friday; all they need to do is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge!”
The Feast of St. Joseph is a higher ranking Solemnity in the Liturgical calendar of the Church. Therefore the Mass celebrated is very much like a Sunday Mass with Gloria, and all the readings. The solemnity in the church is certainly followed by the solemnity at the dinner table too! It is well known that the Italians (and Sicilians) claim St. Joseph as their own and are known for many traditions such as the St. Joseph Altar or St. Joseph Table. Now an important question: do we need a dispensation of abstinence from meat if St. Joseph’s feast falls on a Friday of Lent? Interestingly, there is no need to wait for official dispensation! Because, Canon 1251 of the Code of Canon Law says “Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.” That is to say, there is no fasting or abstaining ever required of us on Sundays and days of solemn feasts.
Yes, the Church is open to such sentiments of people’s need to celebrate patronal feasts even despite the Lenten austerity.  Happy Feast of St. Patrick!  Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

          Your brother in Christ,

                                                                                      Fr. Abraham Orapankal