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Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston can feel free to enjoy their corned beef on St. Patrick's Day, which falls on a Friday in Lent this year, thanks to a one-time dispensation granted by Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.
In the U.S., Catholics aged 14 and over are required to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and each Friday during Lent, and those who are 18 to 59 are required to fast as well on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. However, because these are disciplines, or practices, rather than doctrine, as head authority in his diocese, a bishop can grant a dispensation from these rules if he feels circumstances warrant it.
The cardinal did grant such a dispensation from abstinence from meat in the archdiocese in 2006, the last time St. Patrick's Day landed on a Friday in Lent. However, in 2004, despite some calls from the public, he did not grant a dispensation to allow Red Sox fans to enjoy a hotdog when the home opener fell on Good Friday that year.
In a decree dated Feb. 28, the cardinal said, "This year, the Feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of our Archdiocese, falls on a Friday during Lent. Given the importance of this feast in the life of the Archdiocese and in the lives of so many of our families, I am granting a dispensation from the Friday Lenten abstinence on March 17, 2017, to those who wish to take advantage of this opportunity."
However, the cardinal, like several other bishops who have granted a St. Patrick's Day dispensation, is urging those who take advantage of it to instead make some other act of Lenten sacrifice or charity.
In his decree, the cardinal suggests participating in a public celebration of the Stations of the Cross in your parish; giving "the gift of your time in a charitable way"; spending time "in devout prayer" before the Most Blessed Sacrament; or praying the Archdiocesan Novena Prayer to St. Patrick for vocations, the Divine Mercy chaplet or the rosary.