Dr. Taylor Marshall has a good post up on his blog, on the topic of bodily penances. He gives wise counsel about the possible pitfalls involved, the prudent course to take, and some practical suggestions for penances that one could undertake.
Recall that not only is penance a necessary part of our Christian life, but it is also legislated by the Church for a bare minimum of days throughout the year: all Fridays that are not Solemnities, and Ash Wednesday. On Fridays, in the past, Catholics traditionally did not eat meat, and an entire culture grew up around that: in fact, McDonald’s introduced its fish sandwich to appeal to Catholic clients.
Nowadays – and for the time being –, however, we have the option of doing some other penance on Fridays (except for Good Friday, when abstinence from meat is mandatory). For those who wish to eat meat on Fridays, the problem often is: What other penance to do? And in fact, due to this “openness” of the law, the practice of doing penance on Fridays has fallen severely, even while the Church still wants us to do it.
But as I said, the days specified by the Church are really a bare minimum. The Catechism tells us that penance helps us to “acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart” (# 2043, see also ## 1430-1439), and the Lord calls us to conversion each day – not just once a week! So we really need to do more.
Therefore, this resource by Taylor Marshall is surely worth a look. Happy Friday!