The Lenten obligation to abstain from meat is always lifted on St. Joseph's feast day, March 19.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States instructs the faithful to abstain from eating meat on each Friday of Lent. As the USCCB points out, “Catholic peoples from time immemorial have set apart Friday for special penitential observance by which they gladly suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him.”
Giving up meat on Fridays during Lent has always been a way to remember Jesus’ Passion and to offer a small sacrifice for God. This makes each Friday a somber occasion, dedicated to prayer and fasting.
Yet, what happens when a feast day lands on Friday during Lent?
This question is most often asked when St. Patrick’s Day lands on a Friday, but it also applies to St. Joseph’s Day.
According to the Code of Canon Law, “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 aFriday” (Can. 1251).
St. Joseph’s feast day is a “solemnity,” the highest order of liturgical feast, meaning that Catholics are to observe it similar to a Sunday. It is a day of celebration, meaning any type of fasting or abstinence from meat is temporarily lifted on that day.
Bishops don’t have to make any special proclamation when St. Joseph’s feast day lands on a Friday, as it is already a written rule that the solemnity supersedes the obligation to abstain.
Whatever you do, make sure to observe the “spirit” of the law and celebrate the life of St. Joseph when you eat meat on Friday. Offer him your thanksgiving and pledge to live a holy and virtuous life.