File this one in the “REALLY????” file. Bishops in the United States are making official statements on whether the faithful in their dioceses will be allowed to eat corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day. (St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday this year.) Word of Caution. This is not a nation wide dispensation, people! Check your local listings for the rules and regulations in your area, or read this informative article from CNA (Catholic News Agency).
This is not the first article I read on the topic this week. I tried to avoid the discussion, knowing I had nothing to add except snark. But, after spending the day trying to wrap my head around deeper, more serious issues to write about, this topic was simply too delicious!
Obsessing over rules hearkens back to pre-Vatican II days. We laugh about some of them now. Remember when women pinned a kleenex on their head if they came to Mass without a hat? Silly, right? Not so silly if you were raised to give blind obedience to the church and her priests. Not so silly if you were told, over and over, that breaking these rules would put your soul in immortal danger.
The concept of fasting is good and holy. Jesus did it. It helps us to discipline our bodies. It’s a spiritual practice that can help focus the mind and body on prayer. Feeling physical hunger also unites us with those who are hungry every day, reminding us that those who have are called to share with those who don’t.
Fasting is a simple, biblical discipline.
Sadly, the church has too often taken simple biblical teachings and wrapped them up in increasingly complicated rules and regulations. The Communion fast is an excellent example of Catholic obsessive-compulsiveness at its best.
Fasting on Fridays became focused on not eating meat. More specifically, the flesh of warm-blooded animals. Hence, the ecclesial thumbs up to fish and all their shellfish cousins.
The absurdity of the fasting rule is obvious. A simple bowl of beef broth? Not fasting. A plate of fish and chips? Fasting. Weiners and beans? Not fasting. Coquilles St. Jacques? Fasting.
Years ago, I was attending a meeting in the States. We visited a local church in a wealthier neighbourhood for their Friday Lenten Fish Fry dinner. The menu selection rivalled Red Lobster! If this is fasting…bring it on!
I gave birth to baby #5 in the morning hours of a Good Friday. As we were heading to the hospital, hubby cheerfully pointed out the happy timing of our upcoming adventure.
“What a perfect way to spend Good Friday. With some pain and suffering!”
He’s still my husband.
Later in the day, my parents stopped by with our four older children to meet their new sister. My Mama, bless her heart, had packed a small basket filled with Easter kielbasa and pierogi. She knew her daughter well. I was always FAMISHED after giving birth! Did I think twice about eating the glorious, ham sausage? Did I fret about getting a bishop’s permission to break the Good Friday fast? Hell, no! Welcoming new life into our family overshadowed the gloom of Good Friday. And, I think Jesus understood. And smiled.
So, back to our St. Paddy’s Day corned beef.
The absurdity of the issue is shown in the inconsistency of the dispensation. Eat it in one diocese and no problem. Eat it in another diocese, as long as it’s part of a parish or diocesan event, again no problem. Eat corned beef this St. Patrick’s Day in Denver, Colorado or Lincoln Nebraska? Bad Catholic!