10 April 2015

Fasting And Abstinence In England In The 1780s


Quite a feature in the lives of English Catholics of those days was the strictness with which they kept the laws of fasting and abstinence. In this respect Dr. Talbot's sympathies were in accordance with his family traditions. Yet curiously enough, it was during the years when he was vicar apostolic that important relaxations had to be made in the ecclesiastical laws.

Up to this time a custom had existed of keeping every Friday of the year (except during Paschal time) a fast day as an act of intercession for the conversion of England. This was beginning to be felt as a serious hardship' and one of Dr Talbot’s first acts on becoming vicar apostolic was to petition for the abrogation of the law. His petition was successful, and from 1781 Friday became a day of abstinence only, as in other countries.  (At that date Saturday was also a day of abstinence, in England and in other countries.) With respect to Lent, however, he made a great effort to preserve the strict discipline. The law still held good prohibiting meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter. A dispensation had been granted for several years, allowing it three times a week except in Passiontide; but in 1782 Bishop Talbot made an effort to prevent this from becoming a fixed and regular arrangement, by withholding the dispensation. He explained his reasons in his Lenten Pastoral in a few words:

“As after mature deliberation " (he wrote) " we can see no special reason this year for a general dispensation, for eating flesh meat on certain days, and lest the too frequent repetition of such dispensations should enervate the discipline of the Church in this regard, we think ourselves obliged to confine them to the following articles'"

He proceeded to give a dispensation for eggs and cheese, except on Ash Wednesday and the last four days of Holy Week.

UPDATE: This was done in a hurry yesterday and was unattributed, as Martin pointed out in the comments. 

It is taken from Bernard Ward's The Dawn of the Catholic Revival in England  (Longmans, Green and Co, First Edition,1909), Vol1, page 32.


Left-footer said...

Those indeed were the days!

Thank you, and God bless!

Anonymous said...

Not indicated, but the whole post is a direct quote from Bernard Ward's
"The Dawn of the Catholic Revival in England" (1909), vol.1, p.32.