Father Craig Harrison

Father Craig Harrison of St. Francis Catholic Church describes himself as technologically handicapped but after receiving an IPad as a gift he has found it useful in ministry and leisure.

Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

This Lent season might have some local Catholics is a quandary over St. Patrick's Day, which lands on a Friday, the day they traditionally abstain from eating meat. What to do? Corned beef, or no corned beef?

Fear not, ye of the Catholic faith: the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, which includes Kern County, has given its blessing. 

Bishop Armando Ochoa has issued a dispensation to those inclined to enjoy meat on St. Patrick's Day. Monsignor Craig Harrison, of Bakersfield's St. Francis Parish Church, says the bishop allowed the exception so local Irish can fully celebrate their saint.

"I actually think it's a wonderful thing. Bishop Ochoa said he’s aware culturally and traditionally this is a major celebration for them," Harrison said. "He didn’t want to take away from that."

The Diocese of Fresno isn't alone. Harrison says many dioceses across the U.S. have joined the move to celebrate St. Patrick with meat on Friday.

Esther Lozano, a daily Mass goer, said she is OK with the dispensation and will probably eat corned beef and cabbage on Friday. 

Trudi Williams agrees too, noting that Lent is about more than just abstaining from meat — which she does annually through all 40 days of Lent.

"(Jesus) cares that you ask him to be part of your life," Williams said before walking into daily mass at St. Francis on Thursday. "I think that’s what Jesus cares about most, not meat eating."

However, Gene Rogan, another daily Mass goer, doesn't agree with the bishop's dispensation.

"It defeats the purpose of sacrifice," Rogan said.

According to the Rev. Bartholomew Ifionu of St. Phillip’s, abstaining from meat represents "the sacrifice Christ made for us." He said he will not take advantage of the exception on St. Patrick's Day, but won't judge anyone who does.

"You are allowed to do what you want. It’s not my business," he said.  

Sacrifice seemed to be the biggest concern of those who spoke with The Californian, but Harrison has a compromise. 

He is encouraging those in his congregation taking part in the festivities to choose an alternate day to fast and abstain.

"My prayer is that they really live in the spirit of discipline and fast," Harrison said. 

Harrison, who gave up sugar for Lent, is taking his own advice. He will be enjoying corned beef and cabbage and will fast on Saturday. 

"We wouldn't want to take away the cultural celebration," he said.

Let the festivities begin. 

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