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Are Those in Mourning Obligated to Lenten Rules?


Lenten rules, while no longer as strict as they were in medieval times, can often be difficult to observe — or even remember — in the midst of our busy lives. But what happens when there are extenuating circumstances? Are there exceptions to Lenten rules?

In this clip from the Busted Halo show, a listener named Sue emails Father Dave about a situation at her Catholic Church in which she was told to order food containing meat for a Friday funeral during Lent. Sue volunteers with a ministry that provides meals for grieving families, and she wonders if fulfilling the request would be sinful. She asks, “Does the ‘no meat on Friday’ rule apply to those who are mourning the death of a loved one?”

According to Father Dave, everything depends on context. If the family of the deceased ordered the food, he says, they may be too overcome with sadness to even remember the Lenten observance.

“Grief does a lot of things to us, not the least of which is making us forget things like giving up meat for Lent.”

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In all ministry, it is important to be mindful of the individual needs and emotions of those whom you serve. As Father Dave explains, in situations like the one Sue provides, it is best for those serving to be sensitive to the family’s needs while also taking the reins to ensure that the requirements of the Church are met.

“Whenever we’re doing ministry with people that are in need — somebody who’s in mourning, somebody’s who’s very ill in the hospital — it’s us as ministers who bear the burden of having the level head, particularly when you’re talking about people in grief.”

While everyone should show compassion, understanding, and kindness to the mourners, the burden is on the ministers to make the right choices according to Catholic teaching.