Friday has always been a day of penance in the Church. Even during this glorious season of Easter, Friday is still a day we should reflect on our Lord’s passion and death and do some penance in reparation for our sins and the sins of the whole world. A traditional penance for Fridays is to abstain from meat, but, at least in the United States, we are free to choose our Friday penance. When we perform a penance, we should offer an intention with it so that we might follow Paul’s advice and offer up our sufferings “on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).
Pope Benedict, in his letter to the Catholics of Ireland, asked that their Friday penances over the next year (from now until Easter 2011) be offered for healing and renewal for Ireland in the face of the scandals that have rocked the Irish church. And just this past week, Benedict stated that penance is necessary as a response to the attacks of the world.
Thus, I don’t think I am going out on a limb to suggest that the Pope would love it if every Catholic worldwide were to offer their Friday penances for the next year for healing and renewal in the universal Church. Today is the first Friday we can make this intention (last Friday was part of the Octave of Easter and therefore not a day of penance), so please consider offering your penance today – and every Friday in the coming year – for healing and renewal in the Church as she battles against great evil, from both inside and outside the Church.
Today is also Pope Benedict’s birthday, so consider this year-long Friday practice a perfect birthday gift for him!