Rorate Caeli

1 July 2016, to abstain or not to abstain?

Many Catholics who attend (usually exclusively) the traditional Latin Mass adhere to the disciplines in place during 1962, the year of the Roman missal permitted under Summorum Pontificum.  Some do not.  And some have crafted a sort of hybrid approach, selecting which fast days to observe and which days of abstinence to waive using a mix of 1962 and post-Vatican II disciplines.

Those who stick purely to 1962 have no challenges when it comes to the TLM and the corresponding discipline of the day.  For instance, many of the collects of the TLM during Lent reference the ongoing fast, referring to the 40 day fast that was mandatory in 1962 (and centuries prior), only to be whittled down to two days following the Second Vatican Council. Fasting the 40 weekdays of Lent while attending the TLM avoids any contradictions between the propers and liberalizations enacted after 1962.

Those who choose a hybrid approach, though, have some challenges to reconcile. One such conundrum will happen on 1 July 2016, the feast of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, on the 1962 calendar. This first class feast lands on a Friday this year, a day of abstinence from meat.

In 1962, the discipline for abstinence on Fridays was only waived if a holy day of obligation (aka day of precept) landed on a Friday. So, Christmas 2015 and its octave day were, and would have been, Fridays where meat was permitted.

Following Vatican II, this was loosened greatly, where abstinence from meat on non-Lenten Fridays was subject to a decision from the local bishops' conference, and even then it was waived on all "solemnities" of the novus ordo liturgy. The nativity of Saint John the Baptist last Friday, 24 June, is a "solemnity" in the novus ordo (roughly equivalent to non-violet/black first class feasts on the 1962 calendar), so it meant abstinence (or whatever bishops allow substituted) was waived.

Herein lies a problem with trying to adhere to disciplines created for the novus ordo liturgy. Since there is no such thing as a solemnity of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ on the novus ordo calendar, what does that mean for the applicability of post-Vatican II discipline for someone attending the TLM this Friday? Is abstinence waived only if one attends the 1962 Mass?

Of course the easiest solution here is to adhere to all of the disciplines in place during 1962, including abstinence every Friday of the year unless the Friday is a holy day of obligation. Well, perhaps it's not easy to abstain on Easter Friday and other non-obligatory first class liturgical days, but it certainly more logical. Sticking to both the 1962 missal and the 1962 disciplines means there will never be a time where you are trying to stick a square peg into a round hole.

The 1962 discipline is not mandatory anymore, and no one is claiming it is, as there is a new Code of Canon Law that has lawfully suppressed the 1917 version.  One is just as free to ignore the 1962 discipline as he is to attend a 30-minute Saturday night novus ordo each week instead of a Sunday TLM.

But perhaps there is some wisdom in trying to correspond liturgy with discipline, using 1962 as the definitive year for both. This is why the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, in its annual Ordo, lists both the current practice that is binding alongside a box summarizing the discipline in place during the 1962 missal.  From page 25 of the 2016 Ordo, it reads:

The Discipline of 1962
Laws of Days of Abstinence
  • Applies on one's 7th birthday. 
  • Complete Abstinence: all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the Vigil of Christmas.
  • Partial Abstinence (meat and soup or gravy from meat permitted once a day at the principal meal): all the days of Lent, the Ember Days of Wednesday and Saturday, and the Vigils of Pentecost and the Assumption.
  • Abstinence from meat is dispensed on Holy Days of Obligation.

Laws of Fast
  • Applies for those aged 21 to 59, inclusive. [N.B. post-'62 law lowers this to 18.]
  • Days of Lent from Ash Wednesday inclusive, Ember Days, and Vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, and the Assumption.
  • One full meal permitted and two other meals may be taken which, when combined, are less than a full meal.

The Law of the Eucharistic Fast
  • The complete fast from all food and drink (except water or medicine) for three hours before the reception of Holy Communion. Those who are able to maintain the midnight fast, which was the previous discipline, are still encouraged to do so.