On Good Friday, Jesus’ death on the cross is observed, and thus, Good Friday day is the most solemn day of the year for Catholics.  Traditionally, the hours between noon and 3 pm are considered the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

Mark 25: 33, 37

“At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon…  Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.”

Fasting and Eating Meat

The only two days of the year in which Catholics are required to fast are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Catholics over the age of eighteen are required to participate, except in circumstances where one’s health or wellness is at risk.  Fasting, as defined by the Church, means that only one meal and two smaller meals (when combined they should not equal the larger meal) may be consumed.  Snacking in between meals is not permitted.  Fasting is meant to be a simple reminder of the pain and suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. 

As with all Fridays during Lent, Catholics are expected to abstain from consuming meat as a form of penance.   Fish can still be eaten.  All Catholics over the age of 14 are expected to abstain from meat. 

Is there Mass on Good Friday? 

Technically, Good Friday is the only day of the Catholic year in which no mass is celebrated and no hosts are consecrated.  The Eucharist is still distributed on Good Friday, but consecrated host from Holy Thursday Mass are used.  Services on Good Friday still include a liturgy of the word with a veneration of the cross also added.  During the veneration, congregants from all faiths are welcomed to the altar to kiss, touch, or kneel in front of the cross.  This is a beautiful tradition that uniquely observes the somber Easter Triduum. 

The Church does not require attending Good Friday or Holy Thursday services, but they are great ways to experience the fullness of Easter time.

Stations of the CrossStations of the Cross

Most parishes participate in a Stations of the Cross ceremony on Good Friday, usually between noon and the three o’clock hour.  People of all faiths are invited to participate in this event, which observes fourteen stations on Jesus’ road to Calvary culminating in Jesus’ burial in a tomb. 

Services generally include burning of incense, and always include prayers and contemplation over each station. 

Other Traditions

  • Some parishes hold additional prayer services on Good Friday.  A “Seven Last Words” service is common, where the seven last utterances of Jesus are reflected and prayed upon. 
  • From noon to three, it is generally common tradition for a devotional reading and contemplative prayer with all distractions like TV and radio turned off. 
  • A great family activity that can be observed on Good Friday is planting of seeds, which is can me seen as a metaphor to Jesus’ burial and rising on the third day. 

Good Friday Observance in General

Since this is the most solemn day of the year, Catholics are generally expected to maintain a prayerful disposition throughout the day and keep in mind Christ’s suffering on the cross.  While “fun” is not outlawed, it should generally be avoided in anticipation of the coming celebration of Easter.  Keep in mind that these “rules” enacted by the Catholic Church are meant to increase our awareness of the suffering and death of Jesus.  When properly observed, these actions will produce a bountiful Easter season.