Luck of the Irish: Fort Worth faithful receive dispensation from law of abstinence on St. Patrick’s Day

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 8, 2023) Local

Irish Dancing

St. Patrick Cathedral celebrates the feast day of St. Patrick with Irish dancing in this 2017 file photo.

FORT WORTH — If your St. Patrick’s Day tradition includes corned beef and cabbage, you are in luck.

Although the saint’s feast day falls on a Friday in Lent, Bishop Michael Olson has issued a decree dispensing the faithful of the Diocese of Fort Worth from the law of abstinence from meat on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.

Bishop Olson stated in the decree, “Given the cultural importance and patronage of St. Patrick within the Diocese of Fort Worth, I decree that when his memorial falls on a Friday of Lent, the faithful of the diocese are dispensed from the law of abstinence from meat.”

The prelate continued, “Those who make use of this dispensation are encouraged to abstain from meat on another day of Lent that is not a Friday.”

The region’s devotion to St. Patrick extends long before the Diocese of Fort Worth was established in 1969. St. Patrick is the patron for the mother church of the diocese. St. Patrick Cathedral, which was completed in 1892, is the oldest continuously used church in downtown Fort Worth.

Patricius, a Romanized Britain of the fifth century, was enslaved by Irish raiders for six years, experienced a personal conversion, and then returned to evangelize that land's pre-Christian peoples with the Gospel. In his "Confessio," St. Patrick wrote that as a youth he "would pray up to one hundred times" a day, "and at night perhaps the same." The "Apostle of Ireland" laid the groundwork for Christianity to take root among the Irish, countless numbers of whom ultimately brought  the Catholic faith to different parts of the globe over  the centuries.

For Irish American Catholics, the tradition of eating corned beef and cabbage (or variants of the dish) around St. Patrick's Day recalls the sufferings of their immigrant ancestors who fled famine, poverty and repression in Ireland under British colonial rule marked by anti-Irish racism and anti-Catholic persecution.

The most notable example is the Great Hunger (1845-1852), when British authorities insisted on exporting foodstuffs out of Ireland even as a potato blight wiped out most of the potato crop. A million Irish consequently died of starvation, while another million emigrated to America. Irish Catholic refugees and migrants swelled the ranks of the Catholic Church in the U.S., and over time, the eating of corned beef and cabbage for their descendants became symbolic of their story of freedom and a new life in America.

This article includes reporting by Gina Christian, a national reporter for OSV News.

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