Though many devout Catholics maintain the tradition of meatless Fridays, it’s slowly disappearing from main-stream culture. It’s a solid memory of my childhood. It was another opportunity to ‘spot the Catholic’ during Friday lunches or around the dinner table. Many restaurants ensured that fish and chips and tuna sandwiches were on their Friday menu. It was smart marketing, but also acknowledged Catholics as a significant population group in society.
We remember the passion of Jesus on Fridays. Giving up flesh-meat is symbolic of Christ’s giving up of his own flesh. It is meant to be a fast, a penance, a sacrifice. For many children, giving up meat was easy. As a child, my husband looked forward to pancakes on Friday. Our own Friday dinner was usually pierogies – my all-time favourite comfort food. If this is suffering, bring it on! A few years ago I attended a Fish-Fry Friday during Lent. It was hosted by an obviously well to do parish. The fish menu rivaled that of some finer sea-food restaurants. Again, I can handle this kind of sacrifice!
My cynicism of the tradition actually began as a history student. I learned that some church officials in the middle ages tried to introduce meatless Wednesdays in addition to Fridays. Not as an additional act of holiness, but to boost the lagging fish market!
Several bishops ago, our Archbishop made the local news with his pronouncement that you could eat meat on Fridays with one stipulation. You had to replace the act of fasting with a good deed. The positive motive was good, but we all chuckled over which was easier. Hmmm…..I have to be nice to you, or eat fish!
My in-laws still abide by the meatless Friday rule. It’s part of who they are as Catholics, a tangible sign of their faith. For them, keeping the tradition is keeping the faith. You can’t argue with that. Pass the tartar sauce. 🙂
5 thoughts on “day 10 – meatless fridays”
Isabella have you thought of hats for ladies and the Catholic “secret sign” i.e. the crossing of the head, lips and heart at the Gospel? How about the different cultural ways that people make the sign of the cross?
Thanks Joanne. All good topics to reminisce about and post on. Duly noted and added to the list. Stay tuned!
There is no order to eat fish, however. The tradition is actually to abstain from meat. Generations of contemplatives didn’t eat fish, either. They had a largely vegetarian diet. So if anyone feels that fish is now a luxury unsuitable for penance, they are certainly welcome to abstain from that and eat plainer fare instead.
I admire vegetarians very much; in a way they are fasting constantly out of love for their fellow creatures, if not to express sorrow for sins. Oh, perhaps they are expressing sorrow for the sins of factory farming, though.
I have heard the boosting-the-fish-market story, too. I wonder why a bishop or bishops were that interested in the trade? Certainly there have been other fasting days in historical Judaism and Christianity. In ancient times, both Jews and Christians fasted three days a week, but on different days from each other. Wednesday is indeed a traditional day of fasting, although of course not as prominent as Friday.
Interesting. I guess in my head I knew there was “no order to eat fish” but somehow , maybe culture, that’s what we got…and I was not a fish lover. I could never understand why we just didn’t have pizza or meatless spaghetti. Curious how the fish became the substitute.
One other story I heard was that in certain parts of the world where fish was a staple, they fasted from that on Fridays. The point being the sacrifice not the item
What an interesting angle on vegetarianism, Dorothy. Thanks, as always, for your reflections and insights.
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