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Question Corner

First slide

Friday abstinence for a vegan

Q. I grew up Catholic, and we always did meatless Fridays year-round as part of the Catholic practice of abstinence. (We had fish instead.) Now, as a vegan adult, since I'm already skipping meat anyway (fish, too), if I still wanted to do some kind of Friday abstinence, could I give up things like soda pop, desserts or even beer? (Indiana)

A. On the Fridays during Lent, Catholics who have reached age 14 are asked to abstain from eating meat as a penitential act to join in the sufferings of Jesus. I have known people who have followed that rule by dining out on an extravagant lobster dinner. That, of course, misses the point; what is asked for is sacrifice.

In 1966, when the U.S. Catholic bishops lifted the rule of mandatory abstinence on Fridays throughout the year, this is what they said: "Since the spirit of penance primarily suggests that we discipline ourselves in that which we enjoy most, to many in our day abstinence from meat no longer implies penance, while renunciation of other things would be more penitential."

Your question — about what other things you might give up — suggests that you have captured the spirit of that statement. All of your choices — soda, dessert, beer — have merit, because they would require a conscious decision on your part to forgo something that you like.

But the sacrifice you pick need not even be centered on dietary matters. I've always thought that a good idea for Christians on Lenten Fridays would be to take five minutes around three o'clock in the afternoon just to be quiet and to thank Jesus for dying on the cross to redeem our sins.

Devotion to St. Expeditus

Q. As a Catholic, I am very devoted to St. Expeditus. I have tried to look for a Catholic parish named for this saint, but I have been unable to find one in the United States. I am asking you humbly to request of my archdiocese that they open a parish with the name St. Expeditus so that many of us devotees can go there and put flowers and light candles in his honor.

Also, if it be God's will, would you consider placing a statue of St. Expeditus in your own parish church? There is such a statue in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans. (City and state of origin withheld)

A. This question is indicative of the ardent devotion some Catholics have to particular saints of which little may be known historically. St. Expeditus (or Expedite) is generally thought to have been a Roman centurion who was martyred for his Christian faith about the year A.D. 303 in what is now Turkey.

Devotion to the saint seems to have only started much later, and there is some doubt about his existence.

As for the statue in the New Orleans church, one story (perhaps legendary) is that in the 1920s Catholic nuns at Our Lady of Guadalupe on Rampart Street received a crate marked "expedite"; inside was contained an otherwise unidentified statue of a Roman soldier, whom the nuns dubbed "St. Expedite," and that statute now stands near the entrance to the church where it draws prayers from those seeking rapid intervention.

Fortunately, our letter writer chose not to identify his or her archdiocese, so I am absolved from having to intervene on behalf of a church in St. Expeditus' honor. That saint may or may not have an historical basis, but I don't think it hurts for someone to invoke his help.

Disposing of religious articles

Q. What is the proper way to dispose of the medals, rosaries, small crucifixes, etc., that many Catholic organizations mail out unsolicited? (I have enough of everything.) (Atlanta)

A. Perhaps surprisingly, church law on disposing of blessed articles of devotion is not very specific. Canon 1171 of the church's Code of Canon Law says simply that "sacred objects, which are designated for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated reverently." Traditionally, when no longer usable or wanted, they are buried or burned.

But the articles to which you refer — which arrive unsolicited — have presumably not been blessed at all. Therefore, you are free to dispose of them as you wish.

What I do personally, when they have begun to accumulate, is to send them to an organization such as the Propagation of the Faith, which can use them for missionary work in foreign lands. Or, as an alternative, you could simply leave them at the entrance to a church, to be taken by anyone who might want them. You could offer them to a chaplain at a local Catholic hospital. 

But please don't feel that you are duty-bound to do either of these; you never asked to receive these objects, and you are free to dispose of them as you would any unwanted mail.

Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at askfatherdoyle@gmail.com and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, N.Y., 12203.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021