Skip to comments.Hot dog! Friday abstinence may be back, and this ‘old Catholic’ is ready to embrace it
Posted on 11/18/2012 3:18:25 PM PST by NYer
Want to feel old? Talk to anyone under the age of 50 about meatless Fridays. Odds are, they will have no memory of it. They will have no knowledge of why Catholics were called mackerel snappers, nor will they laugh at tired George Carlin routines about going to hell for eating a hot dog.
And they sure as heck wont know why many restaurant chains still have their fish specials on Fridays.
But for all you youngsters, you might get ready: Friday abstinence may be coming back.
Once upon a time, children, Catholics abstained from meat on Fridays as a small act of penance. Not just Fridays during Lent, but all Fridays. Friday was the day of the Lords death on the cross, and throughout the year, not just on Good Friday, Catholics would commemorate that day in a special way. One still finds this practice in religious communities like monasteries, and the British bishops restored the practice last year.
In general, however, meatless Fridays disappeared after the Second Vatican Council, despite the fact that canon law (Canon 1251) still asks us to abstain from meat or other food on Fridays subject to the requirements of the local conference of bishops.
The irony is that of all the many changes when the Church windows were opened to the fresh wind of aggiornamento, this one may have been one of the more significant. It was a small act of penance that was thoroughly integrated into everyones lives.
Of course, not everyone did it with full consciousness of what it was intended to commemorate. For many, it just became a rule, and junior theologians like young George Carlin loved to debate whether eating a hot dog on Friday led one straight down the brimstone path to hell.
Yet when Friday abstinence was done away with, it had a rather oversized impact on Catholic identity. It turned out it was a significant public acknowledgement of ones faith, like ashes on the forehead. The bishops hadnt meant for such small acts of penance to go away. They had intended to open up other options for sacrifice. But, of course, they werent.
And all those junior theologians? They wondered why one day you could go to hell for eating meat on Friday and the next week it was no big deal. Ultimately, this was a case when punishments became more important than catechesis, and what had a historic and pastoral value became instead a rule for a rules sake. Then, over-emphasizing the penalties was compensated for by abandoning the practice all together, and neither response was right.
However, the Church may get a chance to try again. In his speech to his fellow bishops Nov. 13, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, suggested that it might be time to return to the practice of Friday abstinence.
The work of our Conference during the coming year, he said, includes reflection on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible reinstitution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent.
Now to be fair, he did not specifically mention giving up meat. And, of course, one could give up television screens, or dessert, or a hundred other little pleasures we all enjoy. But I hope we do go back to those meatless Fridays. There is something to be said for Catholics knowing they are all in it together. This time, maybe we will not put the focus on the threats or the punishments, but use this as a teaching moment and a positive reinforcement of our Catholic identity.
My real hope is that we will also keep in mind why we are doing it: To remember Someone who gave up a lot more for us.
That "someone", of course, being Jesus Christ.
I remember one time we had just arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s house for a weekend visit and my Aunt found out my cousin who was in high school at the time had eaten a cheeseburger at lunch. It was like the end of the world. She had to go to the priest Sat morning and confess. The good old days. :))
I never knew the reason for “fish on Fridays” among Catholics. Interesting; thank you.
Sorry, the church can't tell me when I can make love to my wife...
O' wait...Meatless Friday...never mind...
I remember it, but that grade school cafeteria fish was really bad. But now you can get pretty good frozen fish. Bring it on!
If memory serves, McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish grew out of a desire to provide Catholics with a menu option on Fridays. Prior to that, the restaurant had tried (and failed) to market a sandwich involving a ring of grilled pineapple or something like that.
Our public school had fish on Fridays (60s/70s) and it was not even a predominant Catholic town. In fact, the Catholic church was in the next town 10 miles away in a different district.
Our local diner still serves their mac and cheese special on Fridays. Put stewed tomatoes on top and you have a meal that will hold you the entire evening.
Heck, I'll do it, for two reasons. One to remember Jesus and his sacrifice, and two, because it would irritate the left to practice my religion publicly.
Started Living the obligation again over a year ago, Big picture it is a good way of keeping our Lords sacrifice in the mind much of the day. Every time I think about food (too much) I remember why We have this day of obligation.
You've got one sharp memory! Absolutely correct but bad timing for McD. Shortly after they introduced the Filet-o-fish, the church announced that one could eat meat on Fridays ... IF ... they sacrificed something else. Unfortunately, most catholics only heard the first part of that announcement, and celebrated by slapping a steak on the grill :-)
A co-worker is part of the Society of Pope Pius X.
They don’t recognize the Vatican conferences.
So, he’s on all year fish Fridays. And, during lent, its no meat whatsoever for 40 days. I think he also goes to mass more often than once a week....and, of course, the mass is in Latin.
The real reason for ‘’meatless’’Fridays for Catholics is to commemorate Phillip the Second driving the Moors(muslims) out of Spain(Andalusia) Friday being the day the worthless Saracen bastards go to the mosque.
It’s a nice commemoration of what Jesus did for us, IMO.
Phillip! Where are you when we need you?
I’ve never understood how eating fish (or macaroni and cheese, for that matter) can be an act of penance.
I’m fond of both. Ate them every Friday in the school cafeteria when I was a child and didn’t feel like I was missing a thing.
Seems to me that it would be more penitent and do more good to fast and give the savings to the poor.
For those who are not Catholic, you can also join in and go Galt on Fridays.
Then they should really just eat pork on Fridays. That makes more sense.
Just hope that those who are Bible based Christians do not get into a fit saying that what the Lord did on the Cross took of the need for sacriface out of penence.