Play ball! But go for the peanuts, skip the bratwurst at Good Friday opener

Ballpark peanuts Photo illustration. | Shutterstock

Sorry, Cleveland baseball fans (the Catholic ones, anyway), there is no dispensation from fasting and abstaining because of the Guardians’ seasonal opener on Good Friday.

The Major League Baseball team, formerly known as the Indians, is set to face the San Francisco Giants on April 15. Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, who started his acting career in the Cleveland area, is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Nothing in sports quite matches the nostalgia-tinged excitement of Opening Day. But Catholic fans in the stands at Progressive Field who want to heed the Church’s call for the faithful to eat only one full meal on Good Friday and refrain from eating meat will have to marshal some old-fashioned Christian fortitude.

That won’t be easy, to be sure, with the aromas of Ohio City Burritos, Dynomite Burgers, Fat Italian Headwiches (so named because they are roughly the size of a human head), and Slider Dogs (“a fresh grilled all beef hot dog topped with Froot Loops, pimento mac and cheese, and bacon”) wafting through the ballpark. 


That is the basic message of encouragement that’s come from the shepherd of the Catholic community in the Cleveland area, Bishop Edward Malesic.

In response to media inquiries, the Diocese of Cleveland issued a statement once it was noticed that the Guardians’ rescheduled Opening Day (delayed because of the impasse between team owners and players that caused the cancellation of some early games) would land on Good Friday.

“Acknowledging the fervor of fans and the long tradition of Cleveland baseball, the fact remains that Good Friday, the observation and remembrance of the day Jesus Christ died for the sins of humankind, is one of the most holy and solemn days on the Church calendar,” the statement said.

The statement called it “unfortunate” that the rescheduling of the home opener falls on Good Friday. But the diocese explained that, for Catholics, Good Friday “is part of the Paschal Triduum, the three-day continuous liturgy of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, during which the Church recalls the darkness of the death of Jesus on Good Friday and the light of his resurrection on Easter Sunday.”

“Consequently, as an act of self-sacrifice and devotion,” the statement continued, “Bishop Edward Malesic is asking the faithful of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland to observe the required Church discipline of fasting and abstaining from eating meat on Good Friday.”

The statement also says that Malesic asks the faithful of the diocese “to dedicate their sacrifice and prayer to an end to the war in Ukraine and an immediate restoration of peace” as well as pray “that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Peace, the Lord preserves the world from the madness of war and brings an end to all suffering across the globe.”

A diocesan spokesman told CNA that the last time opening day fell on Good Friday in Cleveland was in 2007. Bishop Richard Lennon was leading the diocese at the time and did not issue a dispensation, either.

Now, just because meat may be off the menu doesn’t mean Catholic fans have to go hungry. Popcorn, grilled cheese sandwiches, peanuts, pretzels, and other meat-less ballpark staples are all fair game.

As for the Guardians, they are not expected to be contenders this season, which means that they could use all the prayers and sacrifices they can get.

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