Saturday, 7 March 2009

Fish On Fridays...?

When I first came back to the fold, I had picked up the idea that not eating meat on Fridays was something that Catholics used to do, but Vatican II had done away with all that, because it really wasn't very practical... and anyway, quite a lot of the world's population never ate meat at all due to poverty, and so not eating meat on Fridays was a bit pointless...

Of course, no-one ever pointed out that some other form of penance was supposed to be substituted... I discovered that snippet of information some time later. The problem was that deciding on a suitable Friday penance was soooo hard, as I usually didn't remember until the end of the day, by which time the opportunity for all suitable penances had pretty much expired... "Well, I haven't eaten any chocolate, so I'll make that my penance..." doesn't really cut the mustard.

It was actually through reading blogs that I discovered that abstaining from meat was still considered to be a requirement for Catholics in some parts of the world. Then I discovered that some people still observed the penance anyway, without any "requirement" and I thought I should try it.

It certainly reminds me that it's Friday: I loathe vegetables from the very depths of my being (potatoes don't count as vegetables, especially when chipped and deep-fried), and I'm not much of a fish-eater (unless you count fish fingers) so not eating meat is definitely something I notice.

Some people will still object that, if you do like fish, then substituting a nice salmon steak (or whatever) for your usual pork chop isn't much of a penance... this, however, is more a demonstration of how they view penance than anything else: it's not necessarily something unpleasant, or even terribly difficult. Instead, it's about doing something for the love of God, making an effort for His sake.

Fr. Longenecker has some further thoughts about not eating meat on Fridays...


Anagnostis said...

Dear Mac

It's considered bad form for an Orthodox to talk about fasting, for fear of lengthened phylacteries. That said, I intend to dispense myself for present purposes. I am firmly convinced that the disappearance of asceticism from ordinary Catholic life is a disaster perhaps equal to the liturgical debacle - and equally, perhaps, at the root of so many of the Catholic Church's present problems (that essential, Apostolic traditions should fall into oblivion the instant people are no longer "commanded" to observe them is probably what really requires to be confronted, but that's not in my remit).

I therefore congratulate and encourage Catholic laypeople who are attempting some modest recovery of what has always been regarded as an essential component of the spiritual life. "Brick by brick" as a certain blogging priest is in the habit of putting it. I would also encourage Latin rite Catholics to re-learn the fullness of the tradition from their Eastern-rite brethren. Fasting is not about incovenience - it's about hunger: experiencing one's mortality as a school of humility and repentance (there is, for example, one day in March - the 25th - when Eastern rite Christians may eat a fish; eight days when they're permitted wine and oil; none at all from last Monday until Pascha on which any meat or dairy are permitted - and that's just Great Lent).

Adulio said...

and I'm not much of a fish-eater (unless you count fish fingers) so not eating meat is definitely something I notice.

But I bet you wouldn't mind Caviar every Friday?! ;-)

(Not that your GP would recommend it as you're more likely to get gout as a result!)

Mulier Fortis said...

Ottaviani, I think that caviar is a vile abomination... I wouldn't touch the stuff if you paid me!

Anagnostis said...


You're mad


Mulier Fortis said...

Heheheheh... now, I've long known this little fact, but what was it, Moretben, that first alerted you to my mental state?

the mother of this lot said...

Vatican II had very little effect on my mother - we always had fish on Fridays, and I have continued the non-meat eating ever since.

la mamma said...

What funny folk we Catholics are,
Who feast on sausages
And fast on caviar.

It's not quite right and I'm not sure who originally penned it, but you get the idea. Me? I don't like fish but the rest of the family does, so fish on Fridays it is, whether it's Lent or not (in Lent, we eat fish again on another day during the week). However, I don't get my knickers in a twist about abstaining from meat on a Friday - if it's going to be impractical, I do something else. Stations of the cross is my preferred Friday penance and really the fish (and lack of meat) is just a little thing these days, now that I'm getting used to fish!

Richard Collins said...

I have always understood that by abstaining from meat on a Friday you not only made a small penance but, more importantly, it reminded you that Our Lord died on the cross on a Friday.
If you love fish remember that there is no imperative to eat it; choose macaroni cheese or a nutburger instead!
Also, I was brought up to respect the feelings of others re no meat on Fridays and, if attending, say, a dinner party where meat was served it would be an additional "penance" to eat it without demur.

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