Penance is an essential part of the lives of all Christ’s faithful. It arises from the Lord’s call to conversion and repentance.
We do penance:
- in memory of the passion and death of the Lord,
- as a sharing in Christ’s suffering,
- as an expression of inner conversion,
- as a form of reparation for sin.
The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). CCC 1438
Declaring some days throughout the year (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) as days of ‘fast and abstinence’ is meant to intensify penances of the Christian, not to isolate them.
Lent is the traditional season for renewal and penance. In addition to the season of Lent, Catholics observe each Friday of the whole year as days of penance.
The link between Friday and penance is extremely ancient and is even reflected in the Irish word for ‘Friday’, An Aoine (the fast).
Forms of Friday Penance
The following are suggested as ways of fulfilling Friday penance:
- Abstaining from meat or some other food.
- Abstaining from alcoholic drink or smoking.
- Making a special effort at involvement in family prayer.
- Making a special effort to participate in Mass on Fridays.
- Visiting the Blessed Sacrament.
- Making the Stations of the Cross.
- Fasting from all food for a longer period than usual and perhaps giving what is saved to the needy.
- Helping the poor, sick, old, or lonely.
Source: Irish Catholics Bishops Conference