Most Catholics in Colorado will not be allowed to eat meat for St. Patrick's Day this year because the holiday falls on a Friday during Lent.

St. Patrick’s Day, while not technically a Holy Day of Obligation on the Catholic calendar, is definitely a highlight for many Irish-Americans and Irish-wannabes. This year, however, St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday during the Catholic Season of Lent. This leads many Catholics to wonder whether or not they need to dial-back on some of their festivities.

Lent is the 40-day period leading up to Easter, during which Catholics are devoted to fasting and penitence. Catholics are called on to give up something they value (many choose to give up alcohol); they are also asked to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. Hence, the problem. With St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday during Lent, Catholics are expected to continue fasting and not eat meat. And no, drinking beer does not qualify as fasting. In the Catholic Church, regions are broken up into “Provinces.” While most American Provinces are comprised of individual states, the Denver Province includes both Colorado and Wyoming, and each Province is broken up into a “Archdiocese” or a “Diocese.” The Diocese has a Bishop and the Archdiocese has an Archbishop. They are responsible for issuing guidances to the churches and parishes under them. Dispensation The State of Colorado has two Bishops – one in Pueblo and one in Colorado Springs – and an Archbishop in Denver. This Friday/St. Patrick's Day conundrum happens approximately every seven years and the timing usually does not go unnoticed by Bishops. In the lead-up to the Feast of St. Patrick, many Catholic Bishops across the country issue what is known as a dispensation, permitting those living in their Diocese to eat meat and celebrate the holiday. This is also referred to as the “Corned Beef Indult.” Typically, Bishops will encourage Catholic Adults to substitute another day during the week for fasting and abstention. They would have the freedom to celebrate the St. Patrick’s Day holiday with a big meal of corned beef and cabbage.
For areas of the country with large Irish-American populations, the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef dispensation usually make the news. However in Colorado, there hasn’t been any significant coverage of it at all. Being a Catholic myself, I set out to see which Colorado Dioceses, if any, had issued a dispensation. The Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs has issued a formal dispensation. The Bishop instructed Parishes to publish in their weekly bulletins that parishioners are allowed to break the rules and celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick. Catholics living in the diocese are “allowed to eat all the corned beef and cabbage they want,” explained one employee in the Bishop’s office, as long as they substitute another day this week to fast and abstain from eating meat. Check out the Diocese of Colorado Springs, if you're curious which areas are included and how you can contact them. Next, I called the Archdiocese of Denver. A representative from the Archbishop’s Office explained that there would no dispensation for Catholics living in the areas under the Denver Archdiocese. Catholics in the Archdiocese are still expected to fast and abstain from eating meat on St. Patrick’s Day. Talk about a buzzkill... Dispensation Up next was contacting the Diocese of Pueblo. I was able to reach a Deacon; after taking down my number, he called me back minutes later. He went on to explain that the while Bishop had issued a dispensation to certain communities on the Western Slope, there would be no official guidance coming from the Diocese. Any St. Patrick’s Day dispensations will be left up to local Priests. Catholic members of the Parishes under the Diocese of Pueblo are instructed to reach out to their local Parish and request a dispensation from the Priest.
Now, I know what you’re saying: “What if I live in Wyoming but commute to work in Colorado?” As a point of curiosity, I called the Diocese of Cheyenne and asked the Bishop’s Office the same question. Interestingly enough, the Vatican had only just named the new Bishop for Cheyenne on March 16. Since the office remains vacant until the new Bishop takes possession in June, any corned beef dispensation in Wyoming will be left up to local churches. So, if you are a Colorado Catholic looking to fully celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today with a clean conscience, it’s going to depend on where you live. If you’re in Northern or Southern Colorado and really looking to chow down on corned beef and toss back a few pints of Guinness, there’s still time to get an emergency dispensation from your Priest.

Looking to celebrate the Feast of St. Patrick?

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